2017: Turkey: Oğuz Güven

Oğuz Güven, web editor of Cumhuriyet in Turkey, was arrested on 12th May 2017. He is charged with “Committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation” after publishing an online report on the death of public prosecutor Mustafa Alper.


Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Ministry of Justice
Milli Müdafa Caddesi
06659 Kızılay-Ankara
Republic of Turkey

Oslo 19th May 2017

Dear Minister,

Norwegian PEN is deeply concerned about the welfare of Oğuz Güven who was arrested on 12th May 2017.

The web editor of Cumhuriyet has been charged under article 220/6 of Turkey’s Penal Code “Committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation” after publishing an online report on the death of public prosecutor Mustafa Alper.

Norwegian PEN calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Oğuz Güven and all of his detained colleagues from Cumhuriyet, as they are being held imprisoned solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to expression.

We furthermore call on Turkish authorities to protect freedom of expression and human rights by ending the prosecution and detention of journalists based on the content of their writings or their alleged affiliations.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Johanne Fronth-Nygren
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN



President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım
Minister of Interior Affairs Selim Soylu
The Turkish Embassy in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

12. juni: The price of free speech in Turkey- A conversation with Leyla Zana

Photo: Hans Jørgen Brun
– Rafto Laureate 1994 and Kurdish MP in Turkey Leyla Zana in conversation with Nuray Yildirim Gullestad of Norwegian PEN

Introduction by Eugene Schoulgin ofNorwegian PEN

Place: Litteraturhuset in Oslo, Wergeland room.
Organiser: Rafto Foundation and Norwegian PEN

Leyla Zana is a fiercely independent spokeswoman for peace, democracy, and the right to self-determination for the Kurdish people. She has a remarkable story to tell, starting with her childhood growing up in rural Turkey, continuing through marriage at the age of 15, entry into Kurdish politics, her election to the Parliament in 1991 followed by ten years in prison, and finally the roller coaster ride of Turkish and Kurdish politics since Akp became a dominant party in 2002. Her life in politics is framed by the two of the most dramatic events in recent Turkish history – the coup of 1980 with its brutal aftermath, and the attempted coup of 2016, the aftermath of which is still ongoing. Zana is living in Diyarbakir.Nuray Yildirim came to Norway from Turkey as a political refugee in 1998. She is another remarkable Kurdish woman, working at the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) on some of the most demanding challenges facing women, such as honor killings and forced marriage. She is also a writer, works on her Masters thesis on the participation of Kurdish women in political, and leads the western division of Norwegian PEN, based in Bergen.

En hilsen fra Asli Erdogan

Fra tid til annen får vi hilsener fra journalister, forfattere, bloggere og andre som Norsk PEN har aksjonert for.  Det viser at arbeidet vårt er viktig og nytter!

Onsdag 26. april tikket det inn en epost til Norsk PEN, med hilsen fra den tyrkiske forfatteren Asli Erdogan. Hun ble arrestert 17. august i fjor sammen med 22 journalister og ansatte i den kurdiske avisa Özgur Gündem. Hun ble beskyldt for «å ha propagandert for terroristorganisasjonen PKK».

Kolleger fra hele verden protesterte og aksjonerte for Erdogans løslatelse og frifinnelsen av alle fengslede forfattere og journalister i Tyrkia. Erdogan ble løstlatt 29. desember, men siktelsen mot henne og de andre journalistene står ved lag, Erdogan kan idømmes syv års fengsel.

Her er hilsenen fra Asli Erdogan:

Dear friends, colleagues, members of Norwegian PEN

I would like to express my deepest gratitude and sincere thanks to all Norwegian writers, publishers and journalists, all intellectuals for the great support and solidarity I warmly felt while I was in prison. Without the international attention and support, I believe, they were and still are intending  to keep me unjustfully in that stone coffin until I was more or less dead, spiritually and perhaps actually too. I do not know the right words to thank people for my life, but I  will try, probably keep trying rest of my life.. I THANK YOU ALL on behalf of all the writers who have been oppressed, brutally silenced, degraded, jailed. I THANK You all on behalf of the eternal victim, that I too temporarily represent.

Hoping to meet in person one day,

All the best

2017: Turkey: Deniz Yücel

Deniz Yücel, a Turkish-German journalist, has been charged with incitement to hatred and propaganda for a terrorist organisation. Yücel had already been jailed following the coup attempt on 15th July 2016.


Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Ministry of Justice
Milli Müdafa Caddesi
06659 Kızılay-Ankara
Republic of Turkey


Oslo 22nd March 2017

Dear Minister,

Norwegian PEN is urgently concerned about the welfare of the Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel who was detained on 14th February 2017.

Yücel, a German citizen, has been charged with incitement to hatred and propaganda for a terrorist organisation under Article 216 and Article 220 (8) of Turkey’s Penal Code, and remains in prison whilst no date for his trial has been set.

PEN calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Yücel and all other detained writers and journalists if they are not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international standards of fair trial.

We furthermore call on Turkish authorities to protect freedom of expression and human rights, and refrain from using the state of emergency to crack down on peaceful dissidents, civil society, media and education.
Yours sincerely,

Ms Johanne Fronth-Nygren
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN



President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım
Minister of Interior Affairs Selim Soylu
The Turkish Embassy in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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
06659, Kızılay

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.


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

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.

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