The Right Honourable Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Prime Minister of Turkey
20 September 2012
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the prosecution of 41 journalists on terrorism-related charges.
The trial of 41 journalists working for pro-Kurdish media, 36 of whom have been held in jail since 20 December 2011, opened on 11 September in Istanbul. They are all being tried on terrorism-related charges, such as taking orders from the KCK – an illegal pan-Kurdish movement that includes the armed separatist group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – and of forming "media committees” at the KCK’s request. Most of them are charged with membership of an illegal organization or with being one of its leaders.
The 800-page indictment refers extensively to published articles and to the journalists’ contacts and conversations. The prosecution considers contacting or interviewing pro-Kurdish activists as a crime, and reporting on issues such as the mistreatment of detainees and government crackdowns on pro-Kurdish demonstrations as being carried out on the KCK’s orders.
Although the trial’s scale is unprecedented in recent years, it is far from isolated, with journalists being tried every week, usually under anti-terrorism legislation. In this trial, prosecutors have demanded prison sentences ranging from seven to 22 years.
We are seriously concerned that the mass prosecution is a government attempt to intimidate the press still further.
We respectfully remind you that jailing journalists for carrying out their professional duties constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.'
We respectfully call on you to ensure that the prosecution of the 41 journalists is halted and that all charges against them – and all other journalists facing charges relating to their work – are dropped. We urge you to release journalists held in jail for carrying out their duties and to stop criminalising journalists.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.