Members of the European Parliament are continuing to write letters to imprisoned Turkish journalists in a campaign of support launched at the suggestion of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Today, MEPs in the European United Left–Nordic Green Left group (GUE-NGL) wrote to Ahmet Şık, a well-known investigative journalist who has been held ever since his arrest on 29 December.
The text of the letter is published below. It was signed by the group’s chair, Gabriele Zimmer, French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat and by five other members of the group who follow the situation in Turkey closely.
“Your crime was to continue your work under all circumstances,” the letter says. “Via you, we would like to express our solidarity with all those who defend press freedom and [...] democracy in Turkey at great cost, sometimes physical cost."
Turkey is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists, with around 100 currently detained. Most of them were arrested under the state of emergency that was declared after an abortive coup attempt in July 2016 and most of them have not yet been tried.
Dozens of the journalists, including Ahmet Şık, are subjected to a harsh form of solitary confinement in Section 9 of a high security prison in the Istanbul suburb of Silivri.
RSF has asked five groups in the European Parliament to each write a letter to a different imprisoned Turkish journalist. Members of the Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens-EFA) kicked off the campaign by writing to cartoonist Musa Kart on 5 April.
Letter from GUE/NGL MEPs to Ahmet Şık :
In this letter, we would like to express our solidarity with you and your colleagues, journalists and employees of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and with all those who defend the freedom of the press and, more broadly, all rights and freedoms in Turkey.
Defending press freedom has always been a battle in Turkey, as witnessed by the many journalists who have been prosecuted and imprisoned at different times. But repression has taken on a new dimension since the July 2016 coup attempt and Turkey seems to be sinking into an unprecedented spiral of persecution of the media.
To date, more than 130 journalists, including those of Cumhuriyet, have been arrested and nearly 150 media outlets have been closed. Media pluralism no longer exists.
We have just seen the 4 April indictment concerning you and we find it surprising and revealing.
The prosecution accuses you and your colleagues of belonging to or supporting a variety of organizations, ranging from the Fethullah Gülen movement, which is blamed for the attempted coup, to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the extreme left-wing DHKP/C (Revolutionary People's Liberation Front Party).
It seems that the main issue with your newspaper is a supposed change of editorial line since February 2015, the date that your colleague Can Dündar took over as editor.
We wonder what the link with terrorism is. We think the indictment shows that the Turkish authorities are bent on attacking and investigating your newspaper because it is independent of the government, as all newspapers and journalists should be if they respect themselves and respect the values of democracy.
Furthermore, we know that the concept of "terrorism" in Turkey is, to say the least, ill-defined, as both the Council of Europe and the European Union’s institutions have repeatedly pointed out.
You dared to do your job, you dared to criticize the government for its handling of the Kurdish issue and the terrorist threat, and you dared to denounce the delivery of Turkish weapons to Islamist groups in Syria. Just as you dared to denounce the Gülen movement’s influence within the state apparatus in 2011.
Why would you now support those you denounced yesterday?
Your crime was to continue your work under all circumstances.
You were arrested for that. You have been imprisoned since December. The accusations against you would be almost laughable if they were not so serious, if the rule of law was functioning in Turkey and if we could hope that the Turkish judiciary would be able to assert your rights. But, unfortunately, judges are also among the first victims of repression.
We would like to tell you that we stand by you and that you are not alone in your struggle. And via you, we would like to express our solidarity with all those who defend press freedom and democracy in Turkey at great cost, sometimes physical cost.
So hold on, be strong and be sure that we will fight at your side until you regain your freedom.
Miguel URBAN CRESPO
Josu JUARISTI ABAUNZ