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Turkey May 26, 2010
H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Republic of Turkey
Fax: (011.90.312) 417.0476
The Overseas Press Club of America, which has been defending the freedom of the press around the world for seven decades, joins other organizations in expressing dismay at the extraordinary number of actions taken by the government and the courts in Turkey against journalists.
Even though Turkey has the mitigating factor of special security problems, one can not help but be astounded that, according to the media monitoring report of the Independent Communications Network (BIA), sixty nine journalists were among two hundred sixteen people tried in the first quarter of 2010 for the thoughts they expressed. At least thirty two journalists served time in jail during the first quarter and twenty one are still in prison.
Most notably, the former editor of a Kurdish daily, Vedat Kursun, was sentenced to one hundred sixty six years and six months in jail – a reduction from the five hundred twenty five years in prison originally requested! Membership in the outlawed PKK accounts for twelve of those years, but the balance of the sentence arise out of one hundred three counts of publishing PKK propaganda; in other words, expressing his opinion or writing from his viewpoint. As our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has stated, the sentence is “absurd.”
The prosecution of journalists appears to be based on such “crimes” as “insulting” prosecutors, “offending the authorities,” “violating confidence” and “exposing” a public official. In a democracy, these charges are not crimes at all, but disputes that should be settled in civil court, assuming they have any merit in the first place.
It is most curious that while the trial of the alleged murderers of Hrant Dink, a much-respected Turkish-Armenian journalist killed in 2007, drags on, those who write critically about the investigation of his murder and the handling of the trial, face quick judicial actions. Nedim Sener, an investigative journalist, was sentenced this month to three years in prison for obtaining confidential documents for a book he wrote about the Dink investigation.
Mr. Prime Minister, we urge you and your officials and the judiciary to take a good look at how journalists are treated in your country, and whether this treatment matches Turkey’s constitutional commitment to freedom of expression and the standards of the European community.
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
H.E. James F. Jeffrey
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
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