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Judicial harassment in Turkey: Publisher's ordeal highlights need for reform

Wednesday 18 December 2013 - 11:21am

18 December 2013

Ola Wallin, Chair of the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee, and Ann Harrison, Programme Director of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, today called for urgent reform of Turkish obscenity legislation.

They were speaking following the trial of Irfan Sancı, a Turkish publisher who was prosecuted for publishing a translation of Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1911 novel, Les Exploits d’un jeune Don Juan. Today the court threw out Mr Sancı’s acquittal plea. Prosecution has merely been suspended for three years, meaning the publisher must live under constant threat of imprisonment.

Mr Wallin said, ‘Today’s decision is deeply disappointing. Mr Sancı is being punished for doing his job as a publisher, by making works of European literature available in translation. Apollinaire is an important figure in 20th century literature. Publishers should not be persecuted simply because judges hold outdated opinions about a particular work.Cases such as these create an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment’.

Commenting from London, Ms Harrison said, ‘While Turkey has taken incremental steps forward regarding freedom of expression in recent years, the overall situation still falls far short of internationally recognised standards. This trial is symptomatic of the continuing judicial harassment that many members of the literary community are subjected to in Turkey, and is yet more proof of the need for widespread legislative and judicial reform that will genuinely embed freedom of expression as a fundamental human right in the country.’

Mr Wallin added, ‘There are many worrying examples of government censorship in Turkish courts at the moment, affecting publishers, translators, writers and journalists. In common with many Turkish and international organisations we believe this severely undermines Turkey’s claims to be accepted into the European Union.’

Both organisations pledged to campaign for Mr Sancı’s acquittal and to continue to press the Turkish authorities to implement much needed systemic reforms.

More about IPA:
The International Publishers Association (IPA) is an international industry federation representing all aspects of book and journal publishing. Established in 1896, IPA's mission is to promote and protect publishing and to raise awareness for publishing as a force for economic, cultural and political development. Around the world IPA actively fights against censorship and promotes copyright, literacy and freedom to publish.IPA is a trade association with a human rights mandate.

For further information, please contact:
Ola Wallin
Chair, Freedom to Publish Committee
International Publishers Association
Ann Harrison
Programme Director, Writers in Prison Committee
Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338
Twitter: @pen_int

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 Centres spanning more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organization and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.