International Publishers Association criticizes censorship in Turkey
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Zarakolu (L) and Sancı (R) face charges.A prominent member of the International Publishers Association (IPA) called on Turkey to clear journalists, writers and translators of their charges, criticizing the country’s stance on freedom of expression.
Swedish publisher and IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chair Ola Wallin came to Turkey to meet prominent Turkish publishers Ragıp Zarakolu and İrfan Sancı, who are also facing charges for publishing a book written by renowned French poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
The group released a statement after its meeting, reading: “Writers, journalists, translators and publishers working in Turkey are threatened by scores of laws and regulations, specifically the country’s Anti-Terror Laws and Penal Code articles that pretend to defend the nation’s dignity, and pretend to combat racial hatred, obscenity and defamation.”
The statement added: “As a result of the misuse of these laws, many journalists, writers, translators and publishers are currently in jail or facing prosecution. I would like to mention three examples that stand for many: Deniz Zarakolu, Ayse Berktay, and Nedim Şener, all of whom are currently in jail or threatened with jail for simply exercising their human rights.”
‘Something is wrong’
Speaking to Hürriyet Daily News, Wallin said: “I am not sure if I could go on working as a publisher in these conditions if I were in Turkey.”
“Something is going wrong here,” he added. “People are being tried for exercising their right to freedom of expression without engaging in violence. That’s unfair.”
According to the IPA, 66 journalists, writers and translators are still behind bars, with most of them under arrest pending charges. The body called for the release of all of them, including Berktay and Zarakolu, who have been jailed for more than two years, facing charges as part of the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case.
“Turkey is a modern country and has progressed economically with notable developments but the obstacles [that have been placed] on the freedom of expression are concerning,” Wallin added.
He also highlighted the importance of the upcoming verdict from hearing of the Apollinaire case, in which İrfan Sancı, head of the Sel Publishing House, is facing charges for releasing a book that were deemed “explicit.”
Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals had overturned a previous ruling of acquittals of the publisher and translator of the book, “The Exploits of Young Don Juan”, stating that some of the book’s content failed to fall under applicable freedom of speech conventions due to its perversion.
Sancı criticized the decision, saying the verdict delivered at the hearing was “highly important” and that the ruling will contribute to shaping Turkey’s publishing sector by enforcing the “self-censorship mechanism.”