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Turkey January 12, 2011
H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Republic of Turkey
Fax: (011.90.312) 417.0476
It is welcome news indeed that your government’s policy of trying to achieve a reconciliation with the Kurds is making progress, and that the PKK is continuing to observe a cease fire. Therefore, it is all the more disappointing to learn that Kurdish journalists continue to be prosecuted with extraordinary ferocity.
In the latest case, Emine Demir, former editorial manager of Azadiya Welat, has just been sentenced to prison for 136 years on 84 counts of publishing “propaganda for an illegal organization.” Two former editors-in-chief are already in jail, serving terms of 21 years and 166 years. Seven other journalists from the same paper are in jail, and the paper itself has been suspended eight times.
Certainly, the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization, but does writing about it in the press or even interviewing its leaders constitute an act of terrorism? Even if it does, the sentences seem extraordinarily harsh. Where true freedom of the press exists, a journalist might be criticized for interviewing criminal or subversive sources, but he would not be prosecuted. In the case of the Kurds, it would seem useful, rather than treasonable, if the rest of Turkey were to be informed about a dissatisfied minority.
At the same time, as the journalists are being brought to trial, the investigation of the worst crime against Kurdish journalist seems to have stalled. The 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, who had been charged with the vague offense of “denigrating the Turkish state,” remains an open case. The European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey is bound to support, found that some Turkish officials had known of the plot to kill Dink but did nothing about it. Therefore, the ECRH has ordered Turkey to pay the Dink family substantial compensation.
If Turkey is going to live up to the standards of freedom of the European Community, it has some distance to go yet. We of the Overseas Press Club of America hope and wish that you will get there. It would be a big step forward for the cause of free speech.
H.E. Abdullah Gul
Office of the President
Republic of Turkey
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 Mission of the Republic of Turkey to the United Nations
821 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 949.0086
Mr. Doug Silliman
Embassy of the United States of America
Ataturk Bulvari 110
Fax: (011.90.312) 467.2532
Directorate General of Press and Information
Ceyhun Abf Kansu Cad. No. 122
Republic of Turkey
IPS Communication Foundation, Istanbul
Under Secretary of State for Democracy & Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520