PEN International and Turkish publishers call on Turkey to extend freedom of expression
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
In a meeting held on Nov 15, the official Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the Turkish Publishers Association and PEN International demanded the release of all intellectuals detained for their thoughts.
Turkey holds almost one tenth of all intellectuals imprisoned for freedom of expression in the world, according to the writers’ association, PEN International.
In a meeting held on Nov. 15, the official Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the Turkish Publishers Association, the Writers' Union of Turkey and PEN International demanded the release of all intellectuals detained for their thoughts. PEN said there were 800 intellectuals being held in prisons, 73 of whom are from Turkey.
PEN Turkey Chairman Tarık Günersel said Turkey was passing through a critical period, reminding that last year he and his international colleagues had held a meeting with President Abdullah Gül and EU Minister Egemen Bağış in Ankara. However, Günersel said there had been no progress since then, despite Gül's receptivity and willingness to find solutions. “After one year we are totally disappointed, last year we had 60 writers in prison, today the number has increased and has reached 73,” Günersel said.
A number of respected writers’ unions across the world sent messages to the meeting, calling on Turkey to put an end to pressure on freedom of expression.
Every year, International PEN announces a list of “possible convictions” to keep watching, and this year one of the five names was Turkish piano virtuoso, composer and writer Fazıl Say, who is currently appealing against his recent sentence for blasphemy. The other names are Dina Meza (Honduras), Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang (China), Zahra Rahnavard (Iran), and Rwodney Sieh (Liberia).
The Turkish Publishing Association Chairman Metin Celal and the President of the Writers' Union of Turkey, also took the floor during the event.
Before the meeting, Celal told the Hürriyet Daily News that he was calling on European Commissioner Stefan Füle to highlight the situation in Turkey.
“Turkey is giving red alerts and if the EU wants democracy and freedom of expression to improve in Turkey, it must open the 23th and 24th chapters before it’s too late. If these chapters are not opened it will be so late and the situation will get worse than it is now,” Celal said.
Journalist Nedim Şener, who was arrested for more than a year as part of the Oda TV case, also called on the European Union to urge Turkey to act on the issue.
“Making calls for democracy to Turkey is not enough. The EU should do more. Plenty of writers and journalists are in prison. The EU must intervene in this situation,” Şener said.
Sel Publishing House owner Irfan Sancı, who is himself facing charges for publishing an “explicit” book by French writer and poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and renowned human rights activist and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu also spoke during the meeting.
Zarakolu and his son Deniz Zarakolu are also facing charges in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case, into the alleged umbrella political organization that includes the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“We are in a time when we are running out of words,” Sancı said, while Zarakolu also stated that the situation was deteriorating fast. “Obstacles against freedom of expression know no limits now. Journalists, writers, and translators are in prison. Many journalists are facing life imprisonment,” he said.