The International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International, the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) and 43 other organizations in a statement published on June 15, 2020 called for journalist Nedim Türfent’s immediate and unconditional release from prison.
Türfent was detained on May 12, 2016, after reporting on Turkish special police forces’ ill-treatment of around 40 Kurdish workers.
In video footage taken by Türfent and published by the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DIHA), a police officer was seen shouting at the handcuffed workers lying on the ground. “You will see the power of the Turks! What did this state do to you?” apparently alleging that the workers had links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
DIHA was shuttered by the Turkish government with a decree on October 29, 2016.
An online harassment campaign was launched against Türfent immediately after the release of the footage. He was detained on May 13, 2016 and charged with membership in a terrorist organization the following day. He was incarcerated for 399 days before the indictment was drafted.
Nineteen of 20 witnesses called in the trial said their initial statements against Türfent had been given under torture. But he was still sentenced to eight years, nine months in prison in December 2017. Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his sentence on May 21, 2019. His case is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Turkey is one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 154 journalists were behind bars as of June 16, 2020. Detention warrants are outstanding for some 170 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stamped out independent reporting and criticism by closing down more than 100 news outlets and lodging terror-related charges against many of their staff. The industry has been gutted by government shutdowns and takeovers.
The call by the rights organizations marks 1,500 days that Türfent has spent behind bars, deprived of his freedom. Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, Salil Tripathi, said: “Nedim Türfent should never have been detained in the first place, yet today we mark his 1500th day behind bars in this gross miscarriage of justice. Evidently, he is imprisoned for simply doing his job as a journalist, and he must be released, unconditionally and without delay.”
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said: “For the ‘crime’ of doing journalism, Nedim Türfent has now spent 1,500 days in prison. He has been harassed, targeted, threatened, and deprived of his freedom. Turkey must end this injustice and release Nedim immediately as well as all other journalists in Turkey jailed for doing their jobs.”
MLSA co-director and Türfent’s lawyer Veysel Ok said: “Nedim Türfent was detained, subjected to torture and prosecuted as a result of his reporting on the repression of the Kurdish community. … We call on the ECtHR to give priority status to his application to review his case and rule on the violation of his rights. We also call on the government of Turkey to put an immediate end to this injustice. Nedim’s story is the Kurdish journalists’ story in Turkey. Therefore, we expect a long chain of solidarity to be established for Kurdish journalists in Turkey.”
The call for action was signed by the following organizations. The petition drive can be reached here.
International Press Institute (IPI)
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) / Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Index on Censorship
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
Wales PEN Cymru
San Miguel de Allende PEN
Independent Chinese PEN Centre
New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc
St Petersburg PEN
PEN Suisse Romand
PEN Center for German Language Writers Abroad
Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey – Turkish Press, Broadcasting and Printer Workers’ Union
Press in Arrest
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
Life Memory Freedom Association
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)