- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2013

International human rights advocates are urging President Obama to press Turkey’s prime minister to respect democracy and publicly oppose his efforts to restrict free speech and other civil liberties.

Turkey’s democratic progress “has stalled and in some crucial areas regressed” under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the rights advocates said in an open letter to the White House this week.

Critics accuse Mr. Erdogan of creating an increasingly Islamist society in a NATO-member country long respected for its secular government.

“We urge you to express publicly and privately America’s concerns about Turkey’s backsliding and to direct diplomatic efforts toward ensuring that Turkey resumes a course designed to consolidate democracy and the rule of law,” the advocates said.

The letter was signed by Freedom House, the Foreign Policy Initiative, the Project on Middle East Democracy and Reporters Without Borders.

The State Department’s latest human rights report criticizes Turkey for the “arrest and prosecution of journalists, writers and Kurdish intellectual and political activists, coupled with condemnatory speeches by [Turkish] political leaders.”

The report said Mr. Ergodan’s policies have a “chilling effect on freedom of expression.”