With the number of detained and imprisoned journalists and writers reaching almost 150, PEN International representatives will be attending two separate events in İstanbul and Mersin in the coming days to show solidarity with their imprisoned colleagues, the organization announced today.
On 10 December 2016, PEN International, represented by Wolfgang Martin Roth, Chair of PEN Austria’s Writers in Prison Committee, will join a vigil outside Silivri Prison alongside colleagues from PEN Turkey, the Turkish Journalists Association, Turkish Journalists Union, International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders and four other local organisations.
The vigil is intended to show solidarity with 145 journalists currently held in pre-trial detention and to draw attention to their plight. The organizations will reiterate calls on the Turkish government to remove the restrictions on the freedoms of speech, expression and the press in place both before and since the state of emergency was imposed and to allow journalists to pursue their profession without fear of persecution.
PEN International will also be travelling to Mersin, on 13 December, where Caroline Stockford of Welsh PEN Cymru will join colleagues from the National Union Of Journalists to observe the trial of 21-year-old Evrensel Daily reporter Cemil Uğur. Uğur was initially detained on 23 August 2016, along with fellow Evrensel Daily reporter Halil İbrahim Polat as the pair were reporting on an event held in protest at the continuing solitary confinement of leader of the outlawed PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, in Mersin. The two journalists were released on bail after spending 16 days in detention. Their lawyer reported to PEN International that whilst in detention both journalists were subjected to insults and death threats.
On 6 October 2016 whilst attending a police station to request permission to leave the province, as required under an imposed travel ban, Uğur was informed that a warrant for his arrest in relation to this case was pending and he was immediately arrested. The prosecutor charged Uğur under Article 314/2 of the Penal Code ‘being a member of a terror organisation’ and Article 220 ‘making propaganda for an illegal organisation’. PEN International believes Uğur is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
PEN International has long been concerned about the situation of freedom of expressıon in Turkey. Individual PEN members have frequently visited the country to observe trials, participate in solidarity events and to meet with government officials to press for greater respect for freedom of expression while also celebrating the important position of Turkish writers in global literature
While recognising the right of the Turkish authorities to bring those responsible for crimes committed during the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 to justice, PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect their obligations under international law during the declared state of emergency and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.