Int’l press bodies to call on Turkish gov’t to free jailed journalists

The world’s leading media organizations, including the International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Article 19 and the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), will hold a meeting for freedom of press and expression in İstanbul on Feb. 27 and will call on the Turkish government to journalists who are currently in Turkish prisons.

While TGC President Turgay Olcayto will be giving detailed information about the Turkish journalists in prison, the meeting will also be attended by IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis, the IPI England national committee, BBC Scotland’s Managing Editor Sandy Bremner, Article 19 program officer Georgia Nash, PEN Sweden General Secretary Anna Livion Ingvarsson, RSF Advocacy Advisor Sophie Busson, RSF Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu and AEJ President Otmar Lahodynsky.

The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. on Monday at the TGC Burhan Felek Conference Hall in İstanbul.

The IPI launched a website on Wednesday that will serve as a resource for information on the 153 journalists and media workers currently incarcerated in Turkey.

Part of an effort to promote and defend free expression in Turkey, the website, http://freeturkeyjournalists.com, calls for every journalist behind bars to “receive due process and for the release of anyone detained for practicing journalism,” said a press release issued by IPI on Feb. 23.

OVER 125K SIGN PETITION FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Meanwhile, over 125,000 people in Germany signed a petition that urges German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU Commission to adopt a clear and resolute position on the current state of freedom of expression in Turkey. According to Deutsche Welle (DW), the petition, called #FreeWordsTurkey, was launched on Friday by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the German branch of PEN International and Reporters Without Borders Germany.

The action came after German daily Die Welt’s Turkey reporter Deniz Yücel was detained in Turkey on Feb. 17 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

Underlining that “Freedom of expression is in acute danger in Turkey,” the online petition said “the German federal government and the EU Commission are obliged to re-evaluate their policies with regard to the countries in question.”

Demonstrating in front of the Chancellor’s Office in Berlin early on Friday, journalists and writers, including former Cumhuriyet daily Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, demanded that the German government provide quick aid to journalists and writers affected by Erdoğan’s crackdown such as issuing non-bureaucratic emergency visas to them.

After reaching its target of 150,000 signatories in total, the online petition, which ends with the exclamation “Free the words!” will be sent to both Merkel and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has increasingly tightened its grip over journalists and media outlets since a failed coup on July 15 that killed 240 people and injured a thousand more. According to a report published on Jan. 26 by new advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), 191 journalists are in jail, 92 are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey. Turkeypurge.com calculates that 149 media outlets have been shut down by government decree since July 15, 2016. Local media had reported that 866 journalists were fired from their jobs and 620 journalists had their press cards canceled during the July-September period immediately following the abortive coup.

As part of a purge by the AKP government on dissent and the critical media following the failed coup attempt, over 135,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs due to real or alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the government accuses of masterminding the failed coup. Gülen strongly rejects the accusations. (turkishminute.com) Feb. 24, 2017

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