International writers call for greater freedom of expression in Turkey
PEN International photo.Leading writers from around the world, including Turkey’s Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and novelist Elif Şafak, have called on Turkish authorities to respect freedom of expression as a universal and fundamental human right, in a joint letter published by PEN International and English PEN.
In the letter, published March 28, the signatories expressed grave concern over the severe threats to free of expression in the country and called on Turkey to create an environment in which all citizens are able to express themselves freely without fear of censorship or punishment.
The letter followed recent moves by Ankara to block access to Twitter and YouTube following a much-debated new Internet law, which gives the national telecommunications authority (TİB) almost unlimited power in tightening its control over the Internet.
The letter calls on Turkish authorities, “not to retreat from democracy and its keystone, freedom of speech, but rather to recognize their obligations under international treaties … We urge them to remember this beautiful country will be stronger and happier when, and if, it appreciates pluralism, diversity and the freedom of words.”
The signatories to the letter point to the fact that Turkey ranks 154th among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, adding that even today, “translators, editors, publishers, poets and writers face criminal proceedings and even imprisonment for legitimate expression under a variety of legislative fetters.”
YouTube was blocked in Turkey on March 27, hours after leaked recordings of a key security meeting were published on the video sharing website, while access to the micro-blogging site Twitter was cut March 19.
In addition to Pamuk and Şafak, the letter was also signed by Hanan al-Shaykh, Ahdaf Soueif, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Can Dündar, Perihan Mağden, Samar Yazbek, Elfriede Jelinek, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, Alberto Manguel, Margaret Atwood, Peter Englund, Per Wästberg, Sjón, John Ralston Saul, Maureen Freely, Svetlana Alexievich, Adam Zagajewski and Karl Ove Knausgård.