As part of a campaign launched by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party (EPP) Group Chair in the European Parliament have sent a letter for journalist Şahin Alpay, who has been in Turkey’s Silivri Prison for 329 days.
Weber said in his letter to Alpay that “I cannot get used to the idea that a neighbouring country of the European Union, a country which wants to join the European Union, is the world’s biggest prison for media personnel. I am writing this letter to you Mr Alpay, and to all your colleagues who are also in jail, just for doing their job. I am writing to you to tell you that we will never get used to the idea that you are in prison.”
The trial of 30 journalists, including Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne and Ali Bulaç who were columnists of critical Zaman daily which was first seized and later closed by Turkish government following the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, is going to be held on September 18, 2017
Previously the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Greens-EFA, European Left Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe had written letters to journalists Kadri Gürsel, Nazlı Ilıcak, Musa Kart and Ahmet Şık who have been imprisoned for months.
Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 263 journalists are now in jails as of June 24, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 239 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.
Full text of Weber’s letter to Şahin Alpay is as follow:
“Dear Mr Alpay,
This is a letter that I don’t want to write.
Because it shouldn’t be necessary.
Because I would have thought that in the 21st century freedom of press would no longer beendangered, that the progress made in the past centuries could not be retroactive.
Because it is absurd to imagine that you will read my letter in the press. I should be the one reading your articles in the press, not the other way round.
Because I cannot get used to the idea that a neighbouring country ofthe European Union, a country which wants to join the European Union, is the world’s biggest prison for media personnel.
Because it makes me very angry to see how fragile freedom of speech, of thought, and freedom of the press are in today’s world.
Because it requires a lot of courage nowadays to be a journalist in your country, and it shouldn’t be this way.
Because I believe that when freedom of press is at risk, there is no democracy.
I am writing this letter to you Mr Alpay, and to all your colleagues who are also in jail, just for doing their job.
I am writing to you to tell you that we will never get used to the idea that you are in prison.
I want to tell you that you should be proud of choosing journalism as your vocation.
I want to thank you for remaining true to your commitment to your mission of informing the citizens.
And to tell you that the European Union will not give up on you and will not forget about you and your colleagues.”
June 24, 2017