Europe

Top human rights official urges Turkey to 'change course'

  • In this Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 file photo, a protester holding a placard demonstrates across the street from the headquarters of a media company that owns opposition television stations Bugun TV and Kanal Turk, the Bugun and Millet newspapers and other business interests, after was seized by the government, in Istanbul. Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights institution urged Turkey's leaders Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

    In this Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 file photo, a protester holding a placard demonstrates across the street from the headquarters of a media company that owns opposition television stations Bugun TV and Kanal Turk, the Bugun and Millet newspapers and other business interests, after was seized by the government, in Istanbul. Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights institution urged Turkey's leaders Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Friday, June 24, 2016 file photo, a journalist takes pictures of padlocks left on a fence of Metris prison, during a demonstration of people demanding the release of Reporters Without Borders' local representative Erol Onderoglu, academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin, outside Metris prison where Onderoglu and Nesin were held, in Istanbul. Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights institution urged Turkey's leaders Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

    In this Friday, June 24, 2016 file photo, a journalist takes pictures of padlocks left on a fence of Metris prison, during a demonstration of people demanding the release of Reporters Without Borders' local representative Erol Onderoglu, academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin, outside Metris prison where Onderoglu and Nesin were held, in Istanbul. Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights institution urged Turkey's leaders Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Tuesday, June 21, 2016 file photo, protesters demonstrate against the jailing of two journalists and an academic, outside the offices of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits, in Istanbul. Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights institution urged Turkey's leaders Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

    In this Tuesday, June 21, 2016 file photo, protesters demonstrate against the jailing of two journalists and an academic, outside the offices of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits, in Istanbul. Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights institution urged Turkey's leaders Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)  (The Associated Press)

Europe's top human rights institution is urging Turkey's leaders to "urgently change course" and reverse violations of media freedoms and the rule of law, voicing alarm over democracy in the country.

The call comes as Turkey is set to hold a referendum in April on switching to a presidential system — a move critics fear will concentrate too many powers in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, said in a report released Wednesday that Turkey's already worrisome state of media freedoms and freedom of expression had reached "seriously alarming" levels since a state of emergency was declared following a failed coup attempt.

The commissioner also expressed concerns over the constitutional amendments that will be voted on in the referendum.