PEN: Never recorded so many writers in prison in one country at one time

Jennifer Clement, the president of PEN International

PEN International, a worldwide association of writers, on Monday called on the Turkish government to stop abusing a state of emergency in force in the country to stifle criticism and silence dissent, saying “Never in the near-100-year history of PEN have we recorded so many writers in prison in one country at one time.”

“Over 160 media outlets and publishing houses have been closed down since July 2016. Over 165 journalists and media workers have been jailed pending trial, making Turkey the biggest jailer of journalists in the world, surpassing China and Eritrea combined,” said a PEN in a statement posted on its website, evaluating the situation a year on since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

“Over 145,000 civil servants have been summarily dismissed and more than 47,000 people have been jailed pending trial. Turkey’s Kurdish population has been disproportionately affected, with arrests of Kurdish journalists and MPs, closures of pro-Kurdish media outlets and the forced replacement of elected local officials,” added PEN.

“PEN Centres and members around the world urge the Turkish authorities to immediately end this far-reaching onslaught, to lift the state of emergency and to uphold freedom of expression, which is a cornerstone of any free and just society.”

Praising the “March for Justice” that was  launched by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on June 15 in Ankara and which ended on July 9 in İstanbul, Jennifer Clement, PEN International president, said: “The world watched with respect as thousands walked the 450 kilometres between Ankara and Istanbul to restore Turkey’s freedoms. We hope the Turkish government and judiciary will listen to their peoples’ brave call for justice.”

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of July 17, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 240 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 109 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. (SCF with July 16, 2017


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