Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey
Turkish Embassy in Helsinki
Helsinki, 2nd May 2017
Re: Demand to Free Imprisoned Journalists
On behalf of the International Press Institute (IPI) – a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists dedicated to media freedom – we write to again urge your government to end its crackdown on Turkey’s media and to free our imprisoned colleagues.
More than 150 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey and more than 170 media outlets have been shuttered under the ongoing state of emergency declared in the wake of the failed July 2016 coup. Despite claims that these journalists are “terrorists” and that their detention is unrelated to journalism, your government has released little to no supporting evidence, pointing, instead, to the journalists’ news reporting or other critical writings.
The case against Cumhuriyet journalists and executives – including imprisoned IPI members Kadri Gürsel, Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet Şik – is a prime example. Prosecutors, relying on journalistic content, have spun an implausible tale that the paper, in a bid to topple the government, conspired to “defend and protect” groups it previously criticised scathingly.
Gürsel is accused of plotting to help Gülenists, despite frequently and harshly criticising the group, even when it was a government ally. Prosecutors claim people who used a mobile phone app also used by Gülenists “contacted” Gürsel, but offer no details, including whether he even received the attempts, much less answered them. Worse, they fail to note that journalists, by nature, regularly receive many unsolicited messages from readers and others.
Criticising a government cannot be deemed to equal support for anyone who opposes it, nor can criticism alone be evidence of an intent to support or engage in violence. In light of the circumstances and the six months our colleagues have now spent behind bars, we cannot help but view this case as a bid to silence criticism and hinder government accountability.
The world needs Turkey’s help to address serious challenges, but the number of journalists imprisoned and the circumstances of these cases strongly suggest that Turkey lacks a sufficient commitment to democratic norms and human rights to be a reliable partner.
We therefore again urge your government to free all journalists held in connection with their work and drop all charges against them, and to end its abuse of emergency powers.
Yours very truly,
Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat
Chair of IPI Finland