December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Turkey

OPC Calls Turkey World’s Foremost Jailer of Journalists

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
Bakanliklar
06573  Ankara
Republic of Turkey
Fax: (011.90.312) 417.0476

Your Excellency:

It is good news that two prominent journalists, Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, have both been released on bail after being held for more than a year, for the first seven months without charges.  But it is altogether shocking that some 100 journalists are still being held in prison in Turkey, nearly twice as many as a year ago, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  By some accounts, this gives Turkey the dubious distinction of imprisoning more journalists than any other country, even more than China and Iran, both notorious for suppression of freedoms.

We recognize that Turkey is in a difficult position today that results in contradictions.  On the one hand, Turkey is the most democratic and advanced Moslem state, has great influence in the Middle East, and is a candidate for inclusion in the European Union, which presumably would add to your prosperity.  On the other hand, you are dealing with a large insurgency, with terrorists, and with plots against the state.

Under the circumstances, it is understandable if your government takes vigorous measures to control threats to the stability of the state.  It is quite possible that among the many journalists your government has jailed, fined or otherwise harassed, there may be some who are close to or even part of the subversive movements.  But to confuse those journalists who are simply reporting on these movements – or revealing government incompetence – with the subversives is wrong…and against Turkey’s long-term interests.

When Sener and several colleagues were taken into custody in March, 2011, they were originally charged with being members of a terrorist group.  The weakness of the case became evident when the charges were reduced to aiding terrorists.  Sener, who was the International Press Institute’s Press Freedom Hero in 2010, says he had simply done what a good journalist should do: reporting the alleged negligence of the state in prosecuting Hrank Dink’s murderers.

In any democracy, the government is going to come under close scrutiny by the press.  That is one of the chief functions and virtues of a free press.  But your government’s detention of journalists, not to mention the multiple lawsuits and fines, looks like an all-out campaign to silence the critics and intimidate the whole community of journalists.  These actions certainly jeopardize Turkey’s standing in the world and the possibilities of joining the European Union.  As the events of the Arab Spring have shown, the Internet and social media will get out the news even when the formal press is muzzled.  We urge you to let the professional journalist in Turkey do their job.

Respectfully yours,
Jeremy Main
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Abdullah Gül
President
Office of the President
Cumhurbaskanlugu kosku
Cankaya
06100  Ankara
Republic of Turkey

H.E. Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06659 Kizilay
Ankara
Republic ofTurkey

H.E. Namik Tan
Ambassador of Turkey to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
2525 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20008
Fax: (202) 612.6744

Ambassador Baki Ilkin
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Turkey to the United Nations
821 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 949.0086

H. E. Francis Ricciardone
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Embassy of the United States of America
Ataturk Bulvari 110
Kavaklidere
Turkey
Fax: (011.90.312) 467.2532

Director
Directorate General of Press and Information
Ceyhun Abf Kansu Cad. No. 122
Balgat-Ankara
Republic of Turkey

Nadire Mater
IPS Communication Foundation, Istanbul
mater@bianet.org

The Hon. Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy & Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC  20520