The IPA has joined the Turkish Publishers Association in urging Ankara to respect the basic rights and freedoms of writers and publishers, in light of the continuing detention of novelist, columnist and human rights activist, Aslı Erdoğan, who was arrested on 19 August 2016.

Aslı Erdoğan was taken into custody with 24 other journalists and staff from pro-Kurdish opposition daily newspaper Özgür Gündem. The newspaper was also shut down under Turkey’s ongoing state of emergency, which was triggered by the failed 15 July coup d’état.. Twenty-two of those journalists have since been released, while Aslı Erdoğan, Editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya and Chief Editor İnan Kızılkaya are still behind bars.

In the same operation, police also raided a house belonging to prominent human-rights campaigner and 2008 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize winner, Ragip Zarakolu, who is also a columnist for Özgür Gündem.

An advisory board member and columnist for the newspaper, Aslı Erdoğan is accused under anti-terror laws of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’, ‘propagandizing for a terrorist organisation’, as well as ‘incitement to violence and disobedience of the law’. In an eight-page written testimony submitted to the prosecutor, she denies all the charges. She is reportedly being kept isolated in Bakırköy, a closed women’s prison in Istanbul.

Aslı Erdoğan, Ragip Zarakolu and many others are the latest victims of the widening state-of-emergency measures that also prompted the state closures of many media outlets, including 29 publishing houses, in July.

IPA President Richard Charkin said: ‘The Turkish government has a disgraceful record of exploiting anti-terrorism laws to silence its critics; now they seem to be using further increased powers under the state of emergency to gag even more dissenters. We urge President Erdogan to change this dangerously destructive policy, to release Aslı Erdoğan, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya immediately and to prove that freedom of expression and human rights have a future in Turkey.’

The IPA urges Turkey to respect and safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect its obligations under international law, especially during this period of emergency.

In a recent press release the Turkish Publishers Association (TPA) said:

‘It is extremely worrying in terms of freedom to publish to witness the raids and arrests being made at the houses of writers, journalists, illustrators and publishers, such as Aslı Erdoğan and Ragıp Zarakolu. We see the signs that the State of Emergency measures are turning into a wider witch hunt against anyone with differing political views and with no links to the coup plotters.
We urge the government and all the officials to act in accordance with the fundamental rights and freedoms.’

An extract (translated from the Turkish by the TPA) of Aslı Erdoğan’s eight-page testimony to the prosecutor:

‘I have no authority to give suggestions, ideas or instructions for the newspaper’s editorial policy. 

‘I started writing articles in the Radikal newspaper in 1998. I left there in 2001. For a while I wrote articles in the BirGün newspaper. I began writing in Radikal again in 2010. Then, five months later, I was dismissed. In March or April of 2011 I began writing for Özgür Gündem. Since I have been in the field of literature, I have written seven novels, and they have been translated into 15 languages. My articles have also been published in the literature journals of Fil and Kara Karga.

‘I have no ties with any terrorist organization. The members of the editorial board have absolutely no say over who will write what and what the editorial policy is. I am in the editorial as matter of form. I do not accept any of the charges against me.’

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