Day of the Imprisoned Writer: How can you Still Write in That Country?

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On November 15 International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, PEN Turkey, Turkish Writers' Union, Journalists' Association of Turkey and Turkish Publishers Association have held a joint statement and raised concerns over imprisoned writers.

On the occasion of November 15 International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, which was initiated by PEN International in 1981, PEN Turkey Center, Turkish Writers' Union, Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC) and Turkish Publishers Association have held a joint statement for the press.

Coming together in Beyoglu, Istanbul to raise their concerns over the imprisoned writers, journalists and publishers in Turkey and abroad, PEN Turkey Center Chair Zeynep Oral and Second Chair Halil Ibrahim Ozcan, Turkish Writers' Union Chair Adnan Ozyalciner, TGC Secretary General Sibel Gunes and Turkish Publishers Association Chair Kenan Kocaturk addressed the reporters and audience.

Oral: And a chair for Nedim Turfent...

In her opening speech, PEN Turkey Center Chair Zeynep Oral has referred to the efforts of PEN centers around the world to urge people "to take action" for imprisoned and persecuted writers, journalists and publishers:

"The most important thing that we can do about this issue is to forge public opinion. We say 'Luckily, there is social media.' International PEN has highlighted the cases of five activists, writers and journalists this year. They are Lydia Cacho, Stella Nyanzi, Shakthika Sathkumara, Galal El-Behairy and Nedim Turfent from Turkey.

"The case of Nedim Turfent is really mind-boggling. Even though 19 witnesses testified at court that they gave their depositions as a result of torture, Nedim Turfent is still behind bars.

"When we, writers from around the world, came together for a meeting of PEN in October, we all had empty chairs next to ours. The empty chair next to me was for Nedim. If there is a single person in a country who is unlawfully behind bars, no journalists or writers are free there. They are under threat. That there are so many imprisoned people means intimidation."

Ozyalciner: They disregard the Constitution

Adnan Ozyalciner has stated the following in brief:

"Every person is free to express his or her opinion freely. He or she also has the right to disseminate his or her opinions. Today, in our country, our journalist and writer friends, our intellectuals are in prison, they have been put behind bars. Every journalist, every writer has the freedom to create and express opinions. It is a Constitutional right. If journalists and writers are kept in prison in spite of this, it is a crime against the Constitution.

"Those who disregard the Constitution by turning a blind eye to it are the real culprits. In the face of this tragicomic situation, we, as journalists and writers outside, have to pave the way for freedom and democracy by standing up against oppression and corruption of every stripe."

Gunes: First, their press cards were cancelled then...

Underlining that we have to keep alive our hope and overcome this situation, Sibel Sengul has also stated the following:

"It is the government that decides what news will be read by citizens, which writer will write what article and which book will be published by publishers.

"There is a constant hindrance. When we look back, we see that it started with accreditation. The accreditation of many of my friends who could ask questions has been taken away. Asking questions has been banned. Then, we have entered a period when questions are written and distributed beforehand. Then, journalism has been declared as a 'terrorist activity'.

"115 journalists are behind bars now, 3,810 press cards have been cancelled. First, press cards were cancelled, then, it is said 'There are no journalists in prison'. If a journalist cannot show a press card, it becomes easier for the police to intervene. There are also SETA officials in press card commission now. We see that the SETA is targeting our colleagues."

Kocaturk: Dissemination of opinions is a right

Halil Ibrahim Ozcan has also recounted that when they attend international meetings, they are frequently asked, "How can you live in that country, how can you still write there?". He has also indicated that even though they are making applications over applications, they are not still permitted to visit writers and journalists behind bars.

Lastly, Kenan Kocaturk has reminded the audience that this year marks the 71st anniversary of United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Kocaturk has remarked, "The declaration says that the dissemination of all kinds of opinions is a right. It is not the case only in Turkey, there are similar violations and pressures in many parts of the world. But, I still think that we should not fall into despair and solidarity matters."

Source: English Bianet

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