April 23, 2024

Press Freedom


Turkey July 19, 2006

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara
Republic of Turkey
Fax: (011.90.312) 417-0476

Your Excellency:

I write as a past visitor to your country, fascinated by all I saw and experienced there, and as a member of the Freedom of the Press Committee of the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), which is most concerned about the state of press freedom in Turkey. We believe that maintaining standards of press freedom is key to the well-being of the Turkish people, as well as to Turkey’s desired acceptance by the European Union.

In particular, we write to support the call of Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers, www.rsf.org), the international press freedom monitoring group, for Turkey’s Interior Ministry to find and prosecute those responsible for terrorist assaults against the opposition daily newspaper, Cumhuriyet, which suffered three grenade attacks in less than one week in May, 2006.

Although there were no injuries in the May 11, 2006 attack, an account by Reporters Without Borders said that the explosion caused major damage to the building and three automobiles. Only mechanical difficulties prevented additional damage or injury in earlier grenade attacks on the newspaper on May 5 and May 10, RWB/RSF has reported.

We understand that a special unit of the police anti-terror section was set up to investigate the case, but we have seen no reports of its progress. Failure to render justice in this case might, unfortunately, make it seem that the government did not take seriously these obvious efforts at press intimidation, or – worse – that it was condoning them.

The OPC also joins Reporters Without Borders in hailing an Istanbul court’s decisions in April and July to drop charges against all five journalists who had been accused of criticizing the judicial ban on a conference about the Armenian genocide. But we must deplore the appeals court decision of July 12 to uphold a six-month (suspended) prison sentence against Hrant Dink, managing editor of the weekly, Agos, for referring to the 1915 genocide itself.

And we stand with RWB/RSF in calling for release of Rusta Demirkaya, a reporter with the Kurdish news agency, Diha, who was jailed in eastern Turkey on June 15 on a charge of collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Covering the actions of a group like the PKK must be considered legitimate journalism unless illegal collaboration can be proved in court. And we agree with RWB/RSF that there is little danger of Demirkaya fleeing or destroying evidence in the case before his trial.

More generally, we must agree with RWB/RSF that amendments to your nation’s new anti-terrorism law, passed by Parliament this month, undermine the practice and purpose of free journalism in a democratic society by providing prison sentences for the dissemination of statements of “terrorist organizations.” This could well lead to arbitrary prosecution of journalists for doing their proper job in covering issues related to these organizations. Such measures would weaken what we see as a vital bulwark of democracy, chilling criticism and dissent and discouraging the free exchange of views that is essential to true self-government.


Thank you for your attention. We hope you will reply.


Respectfully yours,
David Alpern
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee




President Ahmet Necdet Sezer

Office of the President

Cumhurbaskanlugu kosku


06100 Ankara

Republic of Turkey

Fax: (011.90.312) 468-5026


Nabi Sensoy

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, 10th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Fax: (212) 949-0086

Ross Wilson

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

Embassy of the United States of America

Ataturk Bulvari 110

Kavaklidere, APO/FPO

Fax: (011.90.312) 467-2532

(OR: U.S. Embassy – Turkey

PSC 93 Box 5000

APO, AE 09823-5000)