In a letter denouncing the “the increasing climate of fear and censorship and the stifling of critical voices in Turkey,” over 100 noted international writers including Nobel laureates urge Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to free two journalists facing potential life sentences.
Signatories to the PEN International letter, dated Thursday, include Margaret Atwood, J.M. Coetzee, Monica Ali, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Yann Martel.
“In recent years,” the letter states, “the Turkish authorities have made extraordinary efforts to silence critics and dissent, as documented in PEN’s recent report on free expression in the country. This has had an impact on all areas of Turkish society, from the harsh repression of peaceful protesters in Gezi Park; to the increasing crackdown on freedom of expression online; to the arrest and detention of dozens of writers, journalists and academics.”
The letter points to an uptick over the past year in developments that stifle free speech, and that crackdown was illustrated just last week when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that he wanted the country to redefine its anti-extremism law to include journalists, politicians, and academics.
A specific case the PEN letter points to is that of Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief. The two face trial on Friday. As Agence France Presse reports, they
are charged with revealing state secrets “for espionage purposes”, seeking to “violently” overthrow the government and aiding an “armed terrorist organization”.
The pair already spent three months in pre-trial detention over a story in the leading opposition newspaper in May, which accused the government of seeking to illicitly deliver arms to rebels in Syria.