Turkey: MPs must speak out following Prime Minister’s ‘shameful’ visit to Turkey

Stewart McDonald MP (second from right) hosts meeting with Can Dündar in Westminster. From left to right: Rebecca Vincent (RSF), Ege Dündar, Can Dündar, Stewart McDonald MP, Jo Glanville (English PEN).

On 28 January, following her controversial meeting with President Trump, Theresa May travelled to Turkey for an equally ill-timed meeting with President Erdoğan. While this visit provided the UK with a crucial opportunity to raise concerns surrounding press freedom with the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, the Prime Minister instead chose to focus on a lucrative arms deal.

In an open letter published shortly before the visit, English PEN joined PEN International to urge the Prime Minister to raise the grave concerns surrounding press freedom in Turkey – not least the imprisonment of more than 150 journalists and closure of much of Turkey’s independent media. This is of particular concern in light of the upcoming referendum in Turkey, given the crucial role of the media to ensure that the Turkish public is fully informed ahead of this historic decision.

Shortly after May’s visit to Turkey, leading Turkish journalist Can Dündar travelled to London, hosted by English PEN, PEN International and Reporters Without Borders. During his many meetings with parliamentarians, journalists, and NGO representatives Dündar spoke of his disappointment at the lack of concern shown by May, describing the visit as ‘shameful’.

Stewart McDonald MP, who had also written to the Prime Minister ahead of her Turkey visit, hosted a meeting for Dündar with fellow parliamentarians during the trip. He has since tabled an Early Day Motion on the state of press freedom in Turkey, inviting MPs to speak out in support of press freedom in Turkey following the Prime Minister’s failure to do so.

English PEN urges all of our UK-based members and supporters based in the UK to take a few moments to write to your MP asking them to add their support.

Take action

Write to your MP 

Write to your local MP urging them to support Early Day Motion 907: press freedom in Turkey. Messages can be sent via They Work For You (simply type in your postcode and then enter your message). A sample note is available but please do write your own if you have time, and please email cat@englishpen.org to let us know of any emails you send and responses you receive. Thank you.

Dear [XX] MP

I am writing to ask whether you will consider adding your signature to Early Day Motion 907 in support of greater press freedom in Turkey.

As you may be aware, the situation for press freedom in Turkey has deteriorated significantly in the wake of the attempted coup last July. Six months later, Turkey is now the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with more than 150 currently in prison, while independent newspapers and broadcasters have been forced to close. This is of particular concern in light of the upcoming referendum in Turkey, given the crucial role of the media to ensure that the Turkish public is fully informed ahead of this historic decision. This repression has been condemned by the United Nations and the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member state.

I am writing to urge you to join fellow MPs in signing EDM 907 in order to send a strong message to the Turkish authorities. The full text of the EDM follows:

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards


That this House is concerned at reports of state censorship, in particular the firing, detention and wiretapping of journalists working for newspapers, websites and broadcasters in Turkey; notes that under the state of emergency and in the run-up to the April constitutional referendum in Turkey, the authorities have been carrying out an unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression and human rights more broadly; expresses further concern that since the state of emergency was proclaimed, over 100 journalists have been detained without trial, making Turkey the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, while 149 media outlets have also been closed; further notes that Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2016; urges the Government to raise those issues at the highest possible level with the Turkish authorities; and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed journalists.


About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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