Since 1972 Freedom House has been doing an annual survey of the status of political rights and civil liberties in countries around the world, including Turkey. These are defined in their latest report (click here) that charts the increase and decline of these variables.
Turkey is listed as a ‘partly free’ country, putting it in the same league as Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, Tunisia, Guatemala, Malawi, East Timor, and Ecuador, among others.
A Partly Free country is one in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties. Partly Free states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and a political landscape in which a single party enjoys dominance despite a certain degree of pluralism.
There are some success stories. In the Middle East, Egypt and Libya rose from ‘not free’ status to ‘partly free’, but Turkey’s civil liberties rating declined from 3 to 4 (out of 7 as the worst score) due to, as the report states, “the pretrial detention of thousands of individuals—including Kurdish activists, journalists, union leaders, students, and military officers—in campaigns that many believe to be politically motivated. Turkey has a 3/7 on political rights.”
During his early years in power, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pushed through important reforms that enshrined civilian rule, enhanced fairness at the polls, and made halting steps toward greater minority rights. More recently, however, his government has jailed hundreds of journalists, academics, opposition party officials, and military officers in a series of prosecutions aimed at alleged conspiracies against the state and Kurdish organizations. Turkey currently leads the world in the number of journalists behind bars, and democracy advocates are expressing deep concern for the state of press freedom and the rule of law.