At least free speech exists in Israel, Auster tells Turkish PM

At least free speech exists in Israel, Auster tells Turkish PM

The New York Times
At least free speech exists in Israel, Auster tells Turkish PM

American writer Paul Auster said in an interview last week with the daily Hürriyet that he refused to come to Turkey because of writers and journalists in prison.

U.S. novelist Paul Auster released a statement today following Turkish Prime Minister's comments on the author's earlier critism of freedom of speech in Turkey, New York Times reported.

The statement reads:

"Whatever the Prime Minister might think about the state of Israel, the fact is that free speech exists there and no writers or journalists are in jail. According to the latest numbers gathered by International PEN, there are nearly one hundred writers imprisoned in Turkey, not to speak of independent publishers such as Ragip Zarakolu, whose case is being closely watched by PEN Centers around the world. All countries are flawed and beset by myriad problems, Mr. Prime Minister, including my United States, including your Turkey, and it is my firm conviction that in order to improve conditions in our countries, in every country, the freedom to speak and publish without censorship or the threat of imprisonment is a sacred right for all men and women."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had derided American writer Paul Auster as "ignorant" and said the fact his criticism of Turkey was shared by the main opposition and some newspapers was "grave."

"Author Paul Auster gave an interview to a Turkish newspaper recently. He said he will not come to Turkey as he finds it anti-democratic and because of arrested journalists. Oh! We were much in need of you! What if you come or not?" Erdoğan said during a party meeting yesterday.

Recalling that Auster joined a book fair in 2010 in Israel where he described Israel as a "secular, democratic country," Erdoğan slammed the American writer for being unaware of the fact Israel was a non-secular state and had killed thousands of innocent people in the Gaza Strip. "I am sure Kılıçdaroğlu and Auster will join together for this year’s book fair in Israel," he added.