2017: Turkey: Sajjad Jahan Fard

Sajjad Jahan Fard, journalist and writer, and his friend Hassan Baladeh were arrested while on Mardin, in South-eastern Turkey, and are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”. Linked to the Kurdish intellectual community, Fard and Baladeh are facing up to 10 years in prison.

 

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
Bakanlıklar
06659, Kızılay
Ankara
Turkey

February 10th 2017

Dear Sir,

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee are concerned with the arrest and detention of Kurdish Iranian writer and journalist Sajjad Jahan Fard, and that of his friend Hassan Baladeh, who were charged on 25th January 2017 with “membership of a terrorist organisation”. Upon their arrest they were refused access to their families and legal counsel for four days.

Fard and Baladeh were arrested while on a trip to the city of Mardin, in South-eastern Turkey. They were there as tourists, taking pictures, as any tourist would do, and the charges against them are groundless.

PEN International urges the Turkish authorities to release them immediately. We urge you to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

 

Yours sincerely,

Mari Moen Holsve

Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

COPY: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Embassy of Turkey in Norway, The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2016 Tyrkia: Cemil Ugur

Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere har sendt brev til president Erdogan (se under) med krav om umiddelbart å løslate journalist Cemil Ugur, som sitter fengslet anklaget for å være medlem av en terrororganisasjon og å spre propaganda for en ulovlig organisasjon. Anklagene mot Ugur kom da han i august rapporterte fra en solidaritetsmarkering for fengslede skribenter, utenfor et fengsel i Mersin.

cemil-ugur

To
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi
06560 Beştepe-Ankara

Oslo, October 20th 2016

Dear President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern about the situation for the journalist Cemil Uğur, who is being held in Mersin E Type Closed Prison. We are calling for Cemil Uğur’s immediate and unconditional release whom we consider is being held solely in connection with the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We are also calling for all detained writers and journalists to have access to lawyers and to be released if they are not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards.

Yours sincerely,

Jørgen Lorentzen
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
PEN Norway

COPY:
The Turkish Embassy in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Celebrating Honorary Member Can Dündar

280full-can-dundarBorn in 1961 in Ankara, Can Dündar is a journalist, columnist, and documentarian.  After completing his studies in journalism in Ankara, Dundar went on to obtain a Master’s degree from the London School of Journalism, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara.

Alongside his work as a journalist, Dündar has published over 20 books, produced numerous television programs, and has written and contributed to screenplays and documentaries, most notably Mustafa (2008), chronicling the life of Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which Dündar wrote and directed.

Dündar’s primary contribution, however, has been his unwavering dedication to a rigorous brand of journalism that unapologetically demands honesty, transparency, and accountability from its government and political parties.  It is this very dedication, however, that has unfortunately led him into a position of conflict with the Erdoğan regime – a position in which Dündar, at one point, was forced to choose between freedom of speech and freedom itself.

Dündar has contributed to various print publications over the years, including Hürriyet, Nokta, Sabah, and Milliyet, before being appointed in February 2015 as the editor-in-chief of the center-left newspaper Cumhuriyet.  In January 2014, evidence emerged exposing Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks intercepted at the Syrian border, illegally shipping arms to Syrian rebels.  The story’s publication in May 2015 immediately situated Dündar and the daily’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, as prime targets in a regime that is increasingly stifling the freedom of its press.

President Erdoğan filed an individual criminal complaint against Cumhuriyet; as a result, Dündar and Gül were arrested in November 2015 in Istanbul, and charged with espionage, collecting and disclosing state secrets, and supporting an armed terrorist organization.  Dündar and Gül spent over 90 days in pre-trial detention, including periods in isolation and solitary confinement, and although the journalists were freed in late February under a constitutional court ruling, the indictment ultimately led to a conviction on May 6, 2016, in which Dündar was sentenced to a reduced 5 years and 10 months imprisonment, and Gul was sentenced to 5 years.  This devastating decision was immediately followed by an equally drastic event: an attempt on Dündar’s life the same day, on the courthouse steps, during which his wife, Dilek, aided in detaining the shooter.

In August 2016, Can Dündar stepped down from his position as editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, though he will still be active as a columnist, and tireless in his personal and professional efforts to protect the freedom of the press in Turkey.  Throughout his persecution, arrest, detention, trial, and appeal, Dündar was adamant in his position to remain in Turkey, to fight from within its borders to preserve media integrity and protect their rights to a free press.  Now, however, upon his release pending appeal, Dündar has left Turkey for the moment, dismayed and unconvinced that he would be able to receive a fair trial under the current regime.  Dündar has stated that, “the state of emergency [is] being used the government as a pretext to control the judiciary”, and as such, it would be highly unlikely for him to receive a just, impartial, or public hearing, offering very little hope of the overturn of his conviction.

The already hostile climate for dissidents and opposition in Turkey was exponentially exacerbated by the coup attempt in July 2016.  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) names Turkey the “world leader in imprisoned journalists”, and their World Press Freedom Index for 2016 ranks the country as 151st of 180.  The organization reports: “[i]n the draconian state of emergency imposed after the abortive coup, the authorities have closed more than 100 media outlets critical of the government, placed 42 journalists in provisional detention and banned many others from travelling abroad”.

Spring 2016 saw the publication of We Are Arrested: A Journalist’s Notes from a Turkish Prison, Dündar’s account of Cumhuriyet’s decision to publish the controversial story, and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment, and the social and political events that led up to and followed the failed July coup.  

In March 2016, Norwegian PEN organized a protest outside of Parliament in support of Dündar, Gül, and several other imprisoned or at-risk journalists in Turkey, such as Aslı Erdoğan.  At this time, Norwegian PEN also announced its decision to adopt Can Dündar as an honorary member, in celebration of his monumental contributions to the protection of freedom of speech and human rights, particularly in the face of severe persecution, threats, and imprisonment.

Dündar has also been honored with the International Press Freedom Award (Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, 2016), and the Prize for the Freedom of Future of the Media (together with Erdem Gül, Leipzig Media Foundation, 2016).  Cumhuriyet also received the Reporters without Borders prize in the media category for 2015.

Perhaps Dündar’s merit is best expressed by the words of Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International:

“Can Dündar belongs to that elite of extraordinarily brave journalists who risk everything so the world can know the truth.”

Aslı Erdoğan: Norwegian PEN welcomes a new Honorary Member

Norwegian PEN is pleased to announce the adoption of prize-winning writer, columnist, and human rights activist Aslı Erdoğan as our newest honorary member.  In the wake of Erdoğan’s recent arrest in Turkey, Norwegian PEN wishes to honor her for over a decade of tireless contributions to the fields of literature and activism.

Originally obtaining an MSc at Boğaziçi University, Erdoğan worked as a particle physicist at CERN in Geneva before beginning a fruitful and prolific writing career.  The publication of Erdoğan’s first novel in 1994, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man) quickly established her literary presence, and subsequent works such as The City in Crimson Cloak, Miraculous Mandarin, and Wooden Birds have led to numerous prizes and accolades both in Turkey and abroad.  Erdoğan’s works have been translated into more than fifteen languages, and her most recent novel, The Stone Building, received Turkey’s most prestigious literary award (Sait Faik) in 2010.

As a writer of fiction, Erdoğan is a model of versatility, and her body of work includes poetry, poetic prose, several novellas and short stories, and seven novels.  Perhaps even more impressive, however, is Erdoğan’s prolific career as a journalist and columnist, and her dedication as an activist; publishing over 200 articles and championing causes for feminism, ethnic equality, non-discrimination, and free expression, Aslı Erdoğan’s most recent and controversial contributions stem from her position as a columnist, symbolic editor, and advisory board member of the pro-Kurdish opposition daily, Özgür Gündem.

In the aftermath of the failed military coup on 15 July in Turkey, a court order forced the closure of Özgür Gündem, and following a police raid on 16 August, Aslı Erdoğan was taken into custody alongside twenty other journalists and employees.  Erdoğan was arrested on 17 August and has since been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” and of “undermining national unity”.

An international outcry has been raised in protest of the prison conditions under which Aslı Erdoğan is being held.  Erdoğan suffers from asthma, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and in her detention she has been denied essential medication, medical attention, and at times, even fresh air and water.  Recent objections to her arrest have been overruled by Istanbul’s courts, and Erdoğan continues to await trial in prison amid deplorable conditions.

The effects of the failed coup in July, and the ensuing state of emergency declared by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have resulted in the increased suppression of freedom of expression in Turkey, adding fuel to the fire in an environment that was already hostile to political dissent.  Aslı Erdoğan, like many of her colleagues, continues to be persecuted in her fight for free expression.

Through years of lost jobs, smear campaigns, and political and social exile, Aslı Erdoğan has remained unflinching in her convictions and defense of human rights.  A long-time friend, supporter, and member of PEN, Erdoğan served as the Turkish representative of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee from 1998 to 2000, as well as being an ICORN writer-in-residence in Krakow, Poland.  In 2005, the French literary magazine, Lire, shortlisted Erdoğan as one of “50 most promising authors of tomorrow”.  Norwegian PEN is proud to adopt Aslı Erdoğan as an honorary member, as we continue to hope for her release and the cessation of Turkey’s assault on free speech.

Seminar, 13th September: What’s happening in Turkey?

muzisyen sanar yurdatapan
We have invited Turkish activist and freedom of expression defender Sanar Yurdatapan to tell us about the situation for freedom of expression in Turkey after the coup attempt 15th July. Since 1995, Sanar Yurdatapan has been the driving force and spokesperson for the organisation The Initiative for Freedom of Expression. Link to the website: http://www.dusun-think.net/index.php?

The seminar will take place on Tuesday 13th September at 19:00 at the Fritt Ord Foundation in Uranienborgveien 2, Oslo.

PROGRAM:
Welcome by William Nygaard, President of Norwegian PEN

Introduction by Sanar Yurdatapan, former head of the Initiative for Freedom of Expression in Turkey.

Followed by a panel discussion led by Jørgen Lorentzen, member of the Turkey Committee in Norwegian PEN.
The participants are:
Nerina Weiss, researcher at FAFO
Siri Neset, researcher affiliated with the Chr. Michelsen Institute
Nils Butenschøn, professor at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights, University of Oslo
Eugene Schoulgin, vice-president of PEN International

The Turkish journalist Ragip Zarakolu will close the seminar with an appeal.

In response to the attempted coup in Turkey on 15th July 2016, the government introduced a state of emergency «to quickly remove all the elements of the terrorist organization that was involved in the attempted coup.» Since then, thousands of academics were dismissed, many journalists have been arrested, and publishers and media houses been closed. Civil servants in the military, the judiciary and the police have experienced gross violations of their rights. They have been accused of complicity in the coup and of sympathizing with the Gülen movement, which the Erdogan government believes was behind the coup.

A decree adopted under the state of emergency gives all ministers an opportunity to shut down any publication, publisher or dissemination channel which is deemed to pose a threat to national security; meanwhile, courts have forbidden the press to report a number of issues related to the coup.

The last week’s events have exacerbated circumstances that already set strict limitations on the fundamental rights and freedom of expression in Turkey.

What is Turkey’s role from now on? And what is Norway’s position?

Some key words for the evening’s debate include: human rights, freedom of expression, the EU, NATO, the relationship Russia and the United States, Kurds, migration and Syria, terror.

The seminar is organized by Norwegian PEN in cooperation with the Association of Norwegian Editors, the Norwegian Union of Journalists, the Norwegian Press Association, Oslo and Akershus University College, University of Oslo, the Norwegian Publishers Association and the Fritt Ord Foundation.

The seminar is free and open to all.

Why are so many journalists arrested in Turkey?

Journalists Erol Önderoglu , Ahmet Nesin and Physician Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı were arrested on June 20, 2016. Why? The Freedom of Expression Network-Turkey explains the basics.

3 journalists

Journalists Erol Önderoglu , Ahmet Nesin and Physician Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı were arrested on June 20, 2016. Why?

Background information:

 

  1. Daily “Özgür Gündem” is the main newspaper of Kurdish opposition in Turkey. Against it, there have been 149 investigations –and at the end- 110 cases opened, to silent the voice of Kurds (Since July 1995- State Security Council’s declaration). An imprisonment between 2 years 9 months and 13 years 9 months is demanded for each responsible editor.
  2. “Responsible Editor” is the person to be held responsible for each and every article published in the newspaper. Newspapers have been using the method of “declaring their voluntary supporters’ names as Responsible Editors,” so that they would face the investigations, trials, even sentences while the professional staff could continue publishing.
  3. Özgür Gündem has launched the “Co-Editorship-in-Chief Campaign” and invited prominent individuals to show solidarity to defend press freedom against oppressions, investigations and cases, by taking the risk, just like a “Lightning Rod”.
  4. Since May 3, 2016 –the World Press Freedom Day- 55 volunteers participated –each for one day- and investigations were opened for 41 of them, but no one was arrested before Önderoğlu, Nesin and Fincancı.
  5. Judicial tricks of JDP (AKP): Justice and Development Party (One man party of Erdoğan) has changed many articles of laws to control the judiciary, completely. Depending on those changes, they reassigned the judges and prosecutors. New (partisan) prosecutors forwarded defendants to new (partisan) judges to have them arrested easily. In the last example, the partisan prosecutor invited those 3 people -whom he wanted to get arrested- for interrogation, exactly on the day his most trusted judge was on duty First he interrogated(!) them, then sent them to the court on duty(!) and had them arrested.

The accused’s and and their lawyers’ defenses base on:
(Only one example tells the story, all others are the same)

  1. Erol Önderoğlu: I am a journalist; my duty is to defend the right to freedom of information. For that matter I help to distribute every kind of information – no matter which tendency it has- to the society.
  2. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç: According to Anti – terror Law, Code of Criminal Procedure Article 100 this is not included in defined crimes. Accusation is misplead in terms of procedure.
  3. Lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu: After the decision against Turkey by ECHR, with the amended article 7/2 of Anti-terror Law, the scope of the offence is limited to the cases of making the propaganda for the methods of a terrorist organization constituting coercion, violence or threats through legitimizing or praising or encouraging the use of these methods. There is no such situation in this case.

Detention decision bases on:

  1. Erol Önderoğlu is declared as the Responsible Chief Editor (at the editorial tag of the newspaper’s issue dated 05/18/2016) so he takes the legal responsibility for all anonymous articles and news.
  2. In the issue dated 05/18/2016, there is PKK/KCK propaganda in the articles on the first page titled “Gendarme special operations team rebels at Akar” and on the 9th page with the headline “Gendarme special operations team – Police special operations team crack at Nizebin”
  3. There is a strong suspicion that Erol Önderoğlu committed the crime of terrorist propaganda.
  4. For the reason the crime is committed through the press it exceed the upper limit required for arrest.
  5. There is not any condition mentioned in Code of Criminal Procedure that prevents detention.
  6. “Judicial control measure” described as a light control measure would be a half measure in this case, therefore the decision is ARREST.

For further and actual information: Dusun Think

2016: Norsk PENs kollega Erol Önderoglu fengslet i Istanbul

reporters_without_border_erol_onderoglu_turkey_press_fredom.jpg_1718483346

En nær venn av Norsk PEN, Erol Önderoglu og hans to kolleger, Ahmet Nesin og Sebnem Korur Fincanci ble i går varetektsfengslet fordi de har vært aktive i en solidaritetskampanje for den kurdiske dagsavisen Özgür Gündem. Tiltalen har vært kjent en stund, men i går dømte en domstol i Istanbul dem til varetekt fram til rettssaken skal finne sted.

Johann Bier, leder for Reportere Uten Grensers Østeuropa- og Asia-desk, kaller dette en «svart dag for ytringsfriheten» og sier at «Erol Önderoglu har kjempet utrettelig for å forsvare forfulgte journalister de siste 20 årene. Han er en leder i dette arbeidet på grunn av sin ærlighet og integritet, noe som er anerkjent i presse- og ytringsfrihetsmiljøer over hele verden.»

Bakgrunnen for tiltalen mot Önderoglu og hans to kolleger er tre artikler som ble publisert i Özgür Gündem 18. mai om maktkampene innen de tyrkiske sikkerhetsstyrkene, samt om de pågående militære operasjonene mot Kurdistans Arbeiderparti (PKK) i Anatolia.

Önderoglu er en nær kollega av Norsk PEN. Han har rapportert til RSF om ytringsfrihetssituasjonen i Tyrkia via nettavisen BIANET siden 1996. Han er medlem av rådet til ytringsfrihetsnettverket IFEX og deltok også på et seminar om ekstremisme og journalistikk ved Institutt for journalistikk og mediefag på Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus i mars i år.

William Nygaard, styreleder i Norsk PEN, kaller fengslingene sjokkerende og uakseptable. De viser nok en gang et Tyrkia i rettslig oppløsning.

Den norske regjeringen må reagere overfor Tyrkias regjering med krav om at de tre settes fri.

Bekymringsmelding til den tyrkiske ambassaden

Mandag 14. mars var Norsk PEN, Dommerforeningen, International Commission of Jurists-Norge og Presseforbundet i møte med Ülkü Kocaefe, fungerende ambassadør ved den tyrkiske ambassaden i Oslo. Vi uttrykte vår bekymring for ytringsfriheten,  pressefriheten og rettssikkerheten i Tyrkia. Bekymringene ble oppsummert i følgende brev til ambassaden:

Ülkü Kocaefe
Deputy Chief of Mission of the Turkish Embassy
Turkish Embassy
Halvdan Svartes gate 5
0244 Oslo

Oslo, 14 March 2016

Firstly, we, the undersigned, express our deepest sympathy to the Turkish people after the latest brutal attack in Ankara.

We are extremely concerned about the increasing climate of fear and censorship and the stifling of critical voices in Turkey.

Freedom of expression is one of the most frequently violated rights in Turkey. According to statistics by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey single-handedly surpassed the 46 other states in the Council of Europe (CoE) in terms of cases involving violations of the right to freedom of expression in 2014 and 2015.

Turkish authorities are persecuting citizens that exercise their right to freedom of speech by criticizing the Turkish president and government. Judges, academics, writers and journalists are imprisoned.

Many journalists are imprisoned because of their critical articles, and even more writers and journalists are awaiting punishment for having performed their duty towards society.

Prosecution solicitors, having investigated allegations of serious corruption in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s family and associates, have lost their jobs and been prosecuted. Judges have been jailed because of their rulings.

Academics, who asked the government to resume the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have been accused of supporting terrorism and several of them have lost their positions.

We regret to learn about the police attack on the offices of Kurdish PEN in South East Turkey on 2 February. Rohat Aktas, editor of the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat was killed 24 February while reporting from Cizre in southeast Turkey.

Both leading international human rights organizations, the Council of Europe and the EU have strongly criticized the Turkish authorities. In the Reporters Without Borders’ ranking of press freedom in the world’s states, Turkey holds a dismal 149th place out of 180.

Freedom of expression – a right enshrined in Turkey’s constitution – is the cornerstone of a democratic and fair society. For a society to be open, free and diverse, individuals must be able to live without fear of reprisals or censorship for what they believe or express.

We, the undersigned organizations therefore  call on Turkish authorities to:
– Ensure free and open debate and expression, offline and online;
– Respect the independence of judges and the judiciary
– Abstain from undue pressure on judges
– Re-establish the independence of the Turkish High Council of Judges and Prosecutors in order to restore its competence as an efficient guarantor for independent judges and an independent judiciary
– Release the judges Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer from imprisonment
– Review all relevant articles of the law with a view to bringing them into accord with international human rights standards, in particular the ICCPR and the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a state party;
– Drop the charges against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül;
– Release all other writers and journalists detained or on trial in violation of their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
– Conduct a swift, transparent and thorough investigation into the death of Rohat Aktas and urge the government in Ankara to look for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the conflict in southeast Turkey.

Sincerely,

William Nygaard,President Norwegian PEN
Ingjerd Thune , President Norwegian Association of Judges
Vidar Strømme, Board member ICJ-Norway
Kjersti Løken Stavrum, Secretary General, Norwegian Press Association

Les også en samlet juriststands brev Børge Brende, der de ber Regjeringen om å reagere overfor Tyrkia – her.

2016 Tyrkia: Perihan Magden

Den tyrkiske forfatteren Perihan Magden risikerer flere års fengsel, anklaget for å ha fornærmet den Tyrkias president Erdogan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag

The case against author Perihan Magden

PEN International has received alarming reports regarding Perihan Magden, who is facing trial for allegedly defaming the President of Turkey. If convicted, she faces a possible prison term of up to four years.

PEN International opposes criminalization of defamation in all cases and calls on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against Magden for her legitimate expression as a political commentator.

We would like to remind you, the Turkish authorities, that the limits of acceptable criticism of politicians and senior public officials are wider that for private individuals, a principle which has been tried successfully before the European Court of Human Rights. We would also like to remind you that Turkey has the obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression under the European Convention of Human Rights.

We urge you, people of power and authority, to look into the case against Perihan Magden and drop all charges against her, in the name of freedom of expression as laid down in international conventions to which Turkey is a signatory.

Yours sincerely

Aase Gjerdrum (Ms)
Member of PEN International, Norwegian centre

Turkey: Don’t Hurt Me – a book about violence against women

Turkey_book

This is a statement from Zeynep Oral, the president of Turkish PEN:

Yesterday was 8th of March – although  the government  has tried to  stop celebrations of 8 March in some Turkish cities;  we, the women of Turkey  have decided to go on with our celebrations and protest marches, everywhere in the country.

We also prepared a book this year to commemorate March 8th. The book, entitled «Don’t Hurt Me» , is a compilation of violence against women themed stories by 25 of our members. It  was published under the generous sponsorship of the Norwegian PEN Centre, by Kirmizi Kedi Publishers.  The launch of our book will  take place on  March 11 as well.  And both William Nygaard, president of Norwegian PEN and John  Ralston Saul, former President of PEN International, will attend the ceremony .

Every year  PEN Turkey presents the Duygu Asena Award annually on  8th of March. (Duygu Asena was  a feminizt and very popular writer and journalist who died  when she was 60, ten years ago) . Since then we   give an award  in her name  to those individuals and / or associations who have contributed to women’s causes, research, and fight for recognition, equality and freedom.

This year we are giving the award  to the  Women’s Library ıof İstanbul.

25 years ago, the Library of Women’s Works & lnformation  Center of İstanbul  embarked on a journey of imparting information under the motto «no documentation no history». Our past is made of men and women, but history was written only by men, thus only their sories took place in the history, as if women did not exist..  WL  created a miracle in these last 25 years. This action comprises not only of the library with its vast archives  &. collections but also activities such as research, symposia, panel discussions, verbal history projects  both on national & international levels  in order to provide a source of interest & flow of information to women from every generation . The Trust thus set a precedent to inspire future generations.

The Awards ceremony will take place on Friday March 11 at 19.00 on the premises of the French Cultural centre.

 

Zeynep Oral, president of PEN Turkey