To mark World Press Freedom Day, IPI sent the following open letter of support for journalists imprisoned in Turkey for their work to daily Cumhuriyet for publication so that those in prisons who are prevented from sending or receiving correspondence might be able to read it. The letter, as published in Turkish, is available here.
To every journalist in Turkey behind bars for his or her work,
On World Press Freedom Day, the international day dedicated to emphasising the importance of press freedom and reminding governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to free expression enshrined under Art. 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, your colleagues around the world want you to know that you are not alone and you are not forgotten.
In the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt and the referendum to give the president vast new powers, we know that the state of press freedom is dire. We know that some 150 journalists and media workers are behind bars, and that more than 170 media outlets have been shuttered amid the ongoing state of emergency. We also know that hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been detained or fired from their jobs amid the accompanying purge.
We have heard the Turkish government’s claims that all imprisoned journalists are “terrorists” and that charges against you are unrelated to journalism. But we note that prosecutors have released little to no evidence supporting their claims and that so many of you have been unjustly imprisoned for so long and hold little hope of ever receiving due process or a fair trial.
We recognize the absurdity of prosecutors’ reliance on your news reporting or other critical writings, and their argument that anyone who criticises the government is an ally of violent extremists, regardless of how frequently or harshly you may have criticised such extremism in the past. And we reject their refusal to acknowledge that your role in demanding government accountability ultimately strengthens democracy and is, in fact, vital to its survival.
We know that the cases against journalists imprisoned for their work cannot be viewed as anything but a bid by Turkey’s government to silence criticism and hinder accountability, and that your lengthy confinement under arbitrary restrictions is punishment for having spoken out.
Increasingly, the world knows that too. The International Press Institute (IPI) – a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists dedicated to media freedom – continues to work with our Turkey National Committee to make the world aware of the severity of the situation, to push the Turkish government to honour its human rights commitments, and to encourage foreign governments to press Turkey to do so as well.
We are not alone. We are only part of a movement of dozens of local, regional, national and international press freedom and free expression defenders. Across the globe, these groups are working tirelessly to demand that support for a democratic Turkey, and the fundamental human rights of its people, not be abandoned for temporary security or economic concerns. We know, as you do, the tremendous risk that doing so carries for Turkey and for all its neighbours.
Together, people around the world are working to highlight your situation as individuals, rather than numbers, and to support journalists’ cases before the European Court of Human Rights. They are mobilising to monitor trials and report back to the world what is really happening. And they are meeting with your families and colleagues on the ground in Turkey to send – to them, to you and to the government – the clear message that we stand with you.
We recognise that these charges are politically motivated. We support you – from the imprisoned journalists and executives of [Cumhuriyet] to everyone else unjustly imprisoned as a result of his or her work. And we assure you, again, that you are neither alone nor forgotten.
Today, as we mark the importance of the right to share and receive information and remember the sacrifices many have made for it, we affirm again that criticising a government cannot be deemed to equal support for anyone who opposes it.
Nor can criticism alone show an intent to support or engage in violence. That is a fundamental principle, one we – and our partners around the world – will continue to fight for until every journalist held in Turkey in connection with his or her work is freed.