September 27, 2018

RSF Germany to stage protests during Turkish president Erdoğan’s state visit to Berlin

During Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s state visit to Germany, Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany) will hold three demonstrations in Berlin on September 27 and 28 to remind the world of the critical state of Turkey’s media and to call for the release of all journalists unjustly imprisoned in Turkey. Erdoğan will meet with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel, with military honours and an official state banquet also on the agenda. In preparation of his talks with Erdoğan, President Steinmeier met with representatives from RSF Germany as well as with journalists Can Dündar and Meşale Tolu who were both imprisoned in Turkey for terror charges.

"The fact that German journalists Deniz Yücel and Meşale Tolu were released from prison and allowed to return to Germany doesn’t mean things have improved for the media in Turkey in the last couple of months. Turkey is still the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, and critical media are still being shut down", said RSF Germany’s Executive Director Christian Mihr. "In our protests during President Erdoğan’s state visit we want to highlight that the voices of critical journalists will not fall silent even if you lock them up and ban their newspapers. This is the idea behind our new campaign 'Fonts for Freedom' that will be launched upon Erdoğan’s visit to Berlin."

Fonts of banned newspapers become ambassadors of press freedom

The basic idea of “Fonts for Freedom” (FFF) is to preserve the fonts of banned newspapers and to turn them into ambassadors for press freedom. On 28 September posters will be put up all over Berlin to greet the Turkish president with clear messages: Each poster will carry a plea for press freedom, written in the font of a banned Turkish newspaper. Since the newspapers have ceased to exist the fonts were reconstructed by typographers.

These fonts as well as others from other countries where press freedom is endangered will be available on the campaign’s website for everyone to download and use them. 

RSF to stage three protests in Berlin

The campaign will also be visible in RSF Germany‘s series of rallies during President Erdoğan’s visit to Berlin. Representatives of RSF Germany were at Tegel Airport to meet the Turkish president when he arrived at 8.00 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, providing a stark visual reminder that attacks on press freedom will never be able to eliminate critical media for good.

In a demonstration taking place at 11.00 a.m. on Friday, September 28 at Berlin‘s Washingtonplatz RSF Germany will demand that all unjustly imprisoned journalists be set free. The rally will be held together with Amnesty International Germany, the German Federation of Journalists DJV, the Union of German Journalists dju and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom ECPMF and will include speeches from all participating organisations.

During the state banquet to be held at the German president’s residence, Schloss Bellevue, RSF Germany will draw attention to the more than 100 journalists still imprisoned in Turkey by sending a message in the evening sky over the palace at 5.30 p.m. on Friday, 28 September.

The world's biggest prison for journalists

The already worrying state of Turkey’s media has become critical since an abortive coup in July 2016. The country now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists detained, and mass trials are being held. Journalists are frequently arrested and charged with terrorism offences for doing nothing more than criticising the government, working for a "suspicious" media outlet, contacting a delicate source or simply using an encrypted messaging app.

Two of the journalists currently imprisoned are Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. They were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in mid-February for allegedly participating in the abortive coup. Before that they had already spent more than one and a half years in custody, despite their advanced age. Mümtazer Türköne, a writer and columnist with the now-banned newspaper Zaman, was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison in July 2018, having already spent two and a half years in custody. The journalist and artist Zehra Doğan has been in custody since June 2017.

Media pluralism has for the most part been destroyed in Turkey. Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any form of recourse, since the coup attempt. The few independent media that are still active have very low circulation numbers. At least 20 editorial staff members have been fired or have resigned at one of the last bastions of press freedom, the daily Cumhuriyet, following a recent shakeup in its board of directors.

Turkey ranks 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.