The IPA is in Istanbul this week with its member the Turkish Publishers Association and international free expression organizations* to monitor and protest against the trial of 17 journalists and executives from the national Cumhuriyet newspaper – among them publisher Turhan Günay – on charges that their work aided terrorism.
Of the defendants, 11 have already spent 268 days in prison, including Günay, an executive at the newspaper’s book publishing branch, Cumhuriyet Books, and editor-in-chief of its book supplement. Günay is also one of six shortlisted candidates for the 2017 IPA Prix Voltaire, the winner of which will be announced next month.
Kristenn Einarsson, a Norwegian publisher who chairs the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee, attended both the trial and a demonstration outside Istanbul’s Çağlayan Justice Palace on 24 July.
He said: ‘Never has freedom to publish in Turkey been under greater threat than from this government, which is cynically and systematically jailing all critics with total disregard for the country’s own laws. The social devastation caused by this politically motivated purge will last for generations, as millions of Turks are denied the right to a plurality of information, and the freedom to think, to write and to publish.’
"Never has freedom to publish in Turkey been under greater threat."
Kristenn Einarsson, Chair, IPA Freedom to Publish Committee
Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to 43 years for the defendants on charges that include the vaguely worded ‘helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member’. They allege that since 2013 Cumhuriyet has ‘defended and protected’ the Gülenist movement and illegal militant Kurdish and leftist groups, despite the paper’s record of criticizing them.
Kenan Kocatürk, President of the Turkish Publishers Association (TPA), said: ‘The Cumhuriyet case will go down in Turkish history as one of the biggest tests of freedom of the press and publishing. These vengeful detentions and the use of State of Emergency powers to silence freedom of expression must be brought to an end, and our member, publisher Turhan Günay, and all prisoners of conscience must be released immediately. History has shown that when lawlessness reigns, when the independence of the judiciary is destroyed, all of society pays a high price. We hope the authorities remember this.’
"The Cumhuriyet case will go down in Turkish history as one of the
biggest tests of freedom of the press and publishing."
Kenan Kocatürk, President TPA
Last week the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the detentions of 10 of the Cumhuriyet staff, including Günay, are arbitrary and violate numerous articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
*Including but not limited to:
- PEN International
- International Press Institute (IPI)
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
- European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
- European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
- PEN chapters from Belgium, Germany, Norway and Switzerland