International Day of the Imprisoned Writer

November 15, 2019

(This article has been taken from the English issue of Bianet.)

On the occasion of November 15 International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, which was initiated by PEN International in 1981, PEN Turkey Center, Turkish Writers' Union, Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC) and Turkish Publishers Association have held a joint statement for the press.

Coming together in Beyoğlu, İstanbul to raise their concerns over the imprisoned writers, journalists and publishers in Turkey and abroad, PEN Turkey Center Chair Zeynep Oral and Second Chair Halil İbrahim Özcan, Turkish Writers' Union Chair Adnan Özyalçıner, TGC Secretary General Sibel Güneş and Turkish Publishers Association Chair Kenan Kocatürk addressed the reporters and audience.

Oral: And a chair for Nedim Türfent...

In her opening speech, PEN Turkey Center Chair Zeynep Oral has referred to the efforts of PEN centers around the world to urge people "to take action" for imprisoned and persecuted writers, journalists and publishers:

"The most important thing that we can do about this issue is to forge public opinion. We say 'Luckily, there is social media.' International PEN has highlighted the cases of five activists, writers and journalists this year. They are Lydia Cacho, Stella Nyanzi, Shakthika Sathkumara, Galal El-Behairy and Nedim Türfent from Turkey.

"The case of Nedim Türfent is really mind-boggling. Even though 19 witnesses testified at court that they gave their depositions as a result of torture, Nedim Türfent is still behind bars.

"When we, writers from around the world, came together for a meeting of PEN in October, we all had empty chairs next to ours. The empty chair next to me was for Nedim. If there is a single person in a country who is unlawfully behind bars, no journalists or writers are free there. They are under threat. That there are so many imprisoned people means intimidation."

Özyalçıner: They disregard the Constitution

Adnan Özyalçıner has stated the following in brief:

"Every person is free to express his or her opinion freely. He or she also has the right to disseminate his or her opinions. Today, in our country, our journalist and writer friends, our intellectuals are in prison, they have been put behind bars. Every journalist, every writer has the freedom to create and express opinions. It is a Constitutional right. If journalists and writers are kept in prison in spite of this, it is a crime against the Constitution.

"Those who disregard the Constitution by turning a blind eye to it are the real culprits. In the face of this tragicomic situation, we, as journalists and writers outside, have to pave the way for freedom and democracy by standing up against oppression and corruption of every stripe."

Güneş: First, their press cards were cancelled then...

Underlining that we have to keep alive our hope and overcome this situation, Sibel Şengül has also stated the following:

"It is the government that decides what news will be read by citizens, which writer will write what article and which book will be published by publishers.

"There is a constant hindrance. When we look back, we see that it started with accreditation. The accreditation of many of my friends who could ask questions has been taken away. Asking questions has been banned. Then, we have entered a period when questions are written and distributed beforehand. Then, journalism has been declared as a 'terrorist activity'.

"115 journalists are behind bars now, 3,810 press cards have been cancelled. First, press cards were cancelled, then, it is said 'There are no journalists in prison'. If a journalist cannot show a press card, it becomes easier for the police to intervene. There are also SETA officials in press card commission now. We see that the SETA is targeting our colleagues."

Kocatürk: Dissemination of opinions is a right

Halil İbrahim Özcan has also recounted that when they attend international meetings, they are frequently asked, "How can you live in that country, how can you still write there?". He has also indicated that even though they are making applications over applications, they are not still permitted to visit writers and journalists behind bars.

Lastly, Kenan Kocatürk has reminded the audience that this year marks the 71st anniversary of United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Kocatürk has remarked, "The declaration says that the dissemination of all kinds of opinions is a right. It is not the case only in Turkey, there are similar violations and pressures in many parts of the world. But, I still think that we should not fall into despair and solidarity matters." (AÖ/SD)

Share button