The International Press Institute (IPI) has urged United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to raise the issue of press freedom during his upcoming visit to Turkey to attend the Istanbul Mediation Conference. The conference says it aims to bring together experts and practitioners around the world and embody a significant platform for the exchange of knowledge and practice in mediation. IPI said Guterres should urge Turkish authorities to end the persecution of journalists.

See the full letter below.

His Excellency Mr. Antonio Guterres
Secretary General
United Nations
New York

29 October 2019

Your excellency,

On behalf of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, we are writing to you ahead of your forthcoming visit to Turkey on 31st October to attend the Istanbul Mediation Conference.

As you must be aware, press freedom and freedom of expression are at risk in Turkey. Currently, 125 journalists are behind bars in the country, making Turkey the world’s largest jailer of journalists, a title it has held for much of the last decade. Behind that figure, there are hundreds more journalists being prosecuted mostly for terrorism related crimes.

Journalists are held in pre-trial detention for months, sometimes years before they get to court and, when the evidence is presented it is almost wholly based on their journalism and social media activity.
The prosecutors and the judiciary have persistently and deliberately conflated journalistic criticism of government actions and policy with terrorism propaganda. Even when convictions are overturned in either the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court, lower courts invariably ignore the precedent set and continue to hold and convict journalists for their journalism.

Moreover, the judicial system has become so cowed by the political wave of intolerance of criticism following the 2016 attempted coup that otherwise dedicated judges are unable to act independently. While the State of Emergency formally ended in 2018 many of its provisions were turned into domestic law. Most disturbingly, direct political control of the courts has been assured by the 2017 constitutional changes which empowered the President and the parliament to jointly appoint the 13 members of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, which oversees the governance of the judiciary.

The state continues to pursue its opponents and detractors ruthlessly. In the last two weeks alone at least 100 investigations were opened against individuals including journalists who publicly criticized the military action in Syria threatening them with terrorism charges.

Your excellency, in your capacity as Secretary General of the United Nations and guardian of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and especially Article 19, which guarantees freedom of expression, kindly raise these issues with your hosts and call for an end to the persecution of journalists in Turkey during your meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Yours sincerely

Barbara Trionfi
IPI Executive Director