The Society has written to the Prime Minister asking her to raise the issue of press freedom in Turkey during the visit of President Erdogan to the UK next week.
In the letter, the Society thanks the Prime Minister for her support for a free press here in the UK, including during the recent debate as part of the Data Protection Bill, but points out that in Turkey press freedom has been severely curtailed.
The letter states: “Following the attempted coup of 2016, more than 180 news outlets have been shut down in Turkey and the most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom show 259 journalists and media workers in jail as of April 21, 2018. After more than a year in provisional detention, dozens of journalists have now begun to be tried for alleged complicity in the July 2016 coup attempt with the first sentences to be handed down in recent weeks including life imprisonment.”
President Erdogan is due to visit London on Sunday 13 May 2018 for a three-day visit ahead of a snap election in Turkey next month. The leader, who is seeking to extend his rule for another five years is scheduled to meet the Queen and will see Theresa May on Tuesday it has been reported.
The Society, which campaigns for media freedom and freedom of expression has stated that the mass trials of journalists in Turkey are deeply concerning as is the life sentence handed down to a number of individuals.
It added: “The decision to sentence such prominent journalists as Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan to life in prison is deeply disturbing. Not only have the brothers lost their jobs and their livelihoods, they now face life in prison on charges that are dubious and appear to be seriously lacking in evidence. The conviction of Mehmet Altan is even more worrying as it defies an order by Turkey’s highest court to release him after it was found earlier this year that his imprisonment had violated his constitutional rights. The difficulties facing freedom of expression in Turkey are huge and the situation is deeply concerning.”
The Society urged the Prime Minister to use President Erdogan’s visit as an opportunity to raise concerns over media freedom and for journalists to be allowed to report with fear or hindrance.
It concluded: “The deterioration of media freedom and the use of emergency powers to jail journalists in Turkey is deeply worrying at a time when the country requires a free press more than ever. The Society urges you, during your dialogue with President Erdogan, to raise these concerns and to remind him that journalism is not a crime nor should it be treated as such. It is hoped that the Turkish authorities will take steps to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and that independent news organisations will be given the freedom to report without fear of intimidation or persecution.”
Read the letter in full here.