On December 19, 2018, officials at Middle East Technical University (METU) reportedly cancelled student-run panel discussions and closed a student media center, in an apparent effort to restrict students’ expressive activity on campus.
The three events, scheduled to take place on December 19, were to convene speakers from various left-wing political groups to discuss topics ranging from neoliberalism to the ongoing economic crisis in Turkey. On December 20, METU’s administration sent an email to students that events held by off-campus groups would be prohibited during election periods.
METU’s administration also closed the Media Community, a student-run organization known for its coverage of protests and other political activity at METU. It is unclear whether the center will be allowed to reopen following the elections.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent cancellation of campus events and a student-run media center in an apparent effort to restrict the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. University authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting such rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Event cancellations and the dissolution of student centers undermine academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.