The International Publishers Association (IPA) has denounced Turkish authorities after reports that police raided the Belge Publishing House in Istanbul, on 7 May, and seized 2,000 books.
Turkish authorities have said that the raid followed a court decision ordering a general search of the publishing house because ‘it was reported that they keep and distribute materials belonging to DHKPC terrorist organisation’. Conversely, the police said the book seizure was over a lack of banderoles, or copyright stamps.
However, the IPA believes this was a cynical attempt to intimidate and harass a legitimate publisher that has published books that are critical of the regime. The IPA condemns this action by authorities.
Kenan Kocatürk, President of the Turkish Publishers Association (TPA), a member of the IPA, said, ‘We have learnt that most of the seized books were actually old titles from the publisher’s backlist, which were published long before the banderole regulation was issued, in 2001. It is not reasonable to expect these copies to have banderoles on them.'
He added: ‘This raid follows other recent state actions targeting publishers, including unlawful court decisions banning titles before publication as a "precaution" and unlawful seizures undertaken long after legal time limits for prosecution had expired. We think that opposition voices are a legitimate and necessary contributor to a healthy democracy, and that freedom of expression and freedom to publish are fundamental to Turkish citizens’ right to information. Arbitrary book seizures like this are always of deep concern for law-abiding publishers who are just doing their job of offering readers a range of opinions.'
Kristenn Einarsson, who chairs the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee, said: ‘The ongoing harassment of Turkish publishers is totally unacceptable and we strongly oppose all attacks on freedom to publish instigated by the Turkish authorities. Belge Publishing House, which was raided this week, was founded in 1977 by Ayşe Zarakolu and Ragıp Zarakolu, both of whom have received the IPA’s Freedom to Publish prize: Ayşe Zarakolu in 1998, Ragıp Zarakolu in 2008. IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee will continue to monitor developments in Turkey and support our publishing colleagues in their struggle.’