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Why freedom of expression is under threat in Turkey 28 mars 2014

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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The Guardian (UK) Friday, March 28, 2014, p. 41

Letter *

We are writers from around the world who love, live and breathe words. We are united in our belief that freedom of expression is a universal and fundamental human right. We are gravely concerned about « the freedom of words » in Turkey. We connect both within and across borders through words, written and spoken. A free exchange of ideas is essential for democracy, as well as for creativity, empathy and tolerance. As revealed in a Pen report on last year’s protests,Turkey has many freedom of expression issues, from criminal defamation to self-censorship within the mainstream media, to police violence against journalists and a narrowing of freedom of expression on the internet.

Turkey ranks 154th among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. Translators, editors, publishers, poets and writers face criminal proceedings and even imprisonment for legitimate expression, under a variety of legal fetters, including the country’s draconian anti-terror law, the law on meetings and demonstrations and the Turkish penal code’s articles on defamation, religious defamation, obscenity, insulting the Turkish people, state or its organs, and promoting conscientious objection to military service.

The blanket ban on Twitter and YouTube (Report, 27 March) comes in the aftermath of a regressive new internet law and is an unacceptable violation of the right to freedom of speech. With over 36 million internet users, Turkey should be proud to be home to Europe’s youngest internet audience, placing it among the most globally connected countries in the Muslim world. By connecting people from a range of backgrounds and making it possible for them to express their thoughts, the internet is a valuable network that supports and strengthens democracy. Twitter and YouTube are vehicles of expression that give a voice to each and every user, regardless of class, religion, ethnicity or political stature. There are more than 12 million Twitter users in Turkey, which shows the vibrancy of civil society. Turkey is a state party to the European convention on human rights and the international covenant on civil and political rights, both of which protect the right to legitimate freedom of expression.

We welcome the administrative court in Ankara’s decision to suspend the ban ahead of a full judgment and urge the telecommunications authority to restore access to Twitter immediately.

We are writers from Turkey and across the world. We care about one another’s problems and we know that we are all interconnected. Turkey is a country where western democratic values, secularism and Islamic culture come together. It is not surrounded by enemies. It is not an isolated or inward-looking country. Our plea to Turkey’s leaders is not to retreat from democracy and its keystone, freedom of speech; but rather to recognise their obligations under international treaties and to lift the block on Twitter and YouTube with immediate effect. We urge them to remember that this beautiful country will be stronger and happier when, and if, it appreciates pluralism, diversity and the freedom of words.

* Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Margaret Atwood, Maureen Freely President, English Pen, Gunter Grass, Tarık Gunersel President,Turkish Pen, Karl Ove Knausgard, Michael Ondaatje, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Gunter Wallraff, Sarah Waters and 51 others

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