English PEN joins ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders in an open letter to President Erdoğan on the eve of his first address to the UN General Assembly as head of state, raising concerns about the protection of freedom of expression in Turkey
English PEN, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders have called on President Erdoğan to promote a culture that is favourable to freedom of expression.
The letter follows the intimidation of New York Times reporter Ceylan Yeğinsu, who has faced threats in the pro-government Turkish media and on social media following a report on the recruitment of Islamic State fighters in Turkey published last week. The President of Turkey himself was reported as denouncing the article as ‘shameless, immoral, treason’.
‘This is not an isolated incident. There is now a worrying trend of publicly smearing the reputation of journalists in Turkey, including threats to their lives,’ state the free speech groups.
Last month at an election rally in southern Turkey, President Erdoğan described the Economist’s correspondent in Turkey Amberin Zaman as a ‘shameless militant disguised under the name of a journalist’. Last year, the BBC Turkish Service reporter Selin Girit was targeted by the mayor of Ankara who accused her of being an ‘English agent’. After these remarks, both journalists received a large number of threatening messages. The BBC and the Economist have voiced concerns that the Turkish authorities were intimidating their reporters. There are many other cases that offer similarly worrying examples of the hostile climate in which both domestic journalists and foreign correspondents in Turkey have to work.
The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the 1982 Turkish Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in a number of international treaties to which Turkey is a state party, including Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 10 of the ECHR.