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Index on Censorship took part in a rally on 12 July at the Turkish Embassy in London to call for the release of Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International Turkey.
Eser was detained along with seven human rights defenders and two non-Turkish trainers on 5 July while conducting a digital security and information management workshop in Büyükada, Istanbul. The protest marked the one week anniversary of their arrest.
In this special podcast, we asked representatives from Amnesty International UK, Reporters Without Borders, English Pen and Index on Censorship about the state of media freedom in Turkey and their messages for the detained human rights defenders.
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Index on Censorship condemns the arrest of Idil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey, and demands her immediate and unconditional release, along with that of two digital security trainers and seven human rights defenders. All were arrested during a digital security and information management workshop in Büyükada, Istanbul, on Wednesday afternoon.
“The detention of Idil Eser and other participants in yesterday’s workshop marks a new low in the rapidly decreasing status of human rights in Turkey,” said Melody Patry, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship. “By detaining them incommunicado and denying them access to a lawyer, Turkey shows its complete disregard for the rule of law.”
The whereabouts of Eser and the other detainees are currently unknown. Eser has allegedly been denied access to communication with her lawyer and her family — the latter of which is illegal under Turkish law.
These are just the latest in a string of attacks on civil society. Thousands of journalists and academics have lost their jobs since the coup attempt in July 2016. Turkey is now the world’s top jailer of journalists, with over 160 in jail. Many journalists, including brothers Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, who have been charged with a variety of false and exaggerated claims, await their fate during a trial next month.
Last month, Taner Kiliç, chair of Amnesty International Turkey, and 22 lawyers were unlawfully detained and have yet to be released. In January, three academics who signed a peace petition were also imprisoned.
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Dear @RT_Erdogan. We demand the release of Amnesty Turkey Director Idil Eser and her colleagues now! #TurkeyRelease #G20 #TurkeyUncensored[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1499358790272-737dafa5-94ee-6″ taxonomies=”8607″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
On 19 June, the first hearing will take place in a trial concerning 17 defendants, including a number of journalists. Among the defendants are prominent novelists and political commentators, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. The case is the first trial of journalists accused of taking part in last year’s failed coup
The case is the first trial of journalists accused of taking part in last year’s failed coup attempt and may shed light on how the courts will approach numerous cases concerning the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial under the state of emergency.
Representatives of Article 19, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship, Norwegian PEN and PEN International will be attending the hearing in order to demonstrate solidarity with the defendants, and with media freedom more broadly in Turkey. The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the International Senior Lawyers Project are also sending observers to the hearing.
The charges against the accused are detailed in a 247-page long indictment which identifies President Erdogan and the Turkish government as the victims. Defendants Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak are charged with “attempting to overthrow the Turkish Grand National Assembly”, “attempting to overthrow the Government of Turkey”, “attempting to abolish the Constitutional order” and “Committing crimes on behalf of an armed terrorist organisation without being a member”. The remaining defendants are additionally charged with “membership of a terrorist organisation”, in reference to the Gülen movement who the Turkish government accuses of having orchestrated the coup attempt.
The majority of those on trial are either currently in exile or have been held in pre-trial detention for almost 10 months. On 14 June, the European Court of Human Rights wrote to the Turkish government requesting its response to a number of questions to determine whether the human rights of seven detained journalists, including the Altans and Nazlı Ilıcak, have been violated due to the long pre-trial detention.
We believe the trial to be politically motivated and call on the authorities to drop all charges against the accused unless they can provide concrete evidence of commission of internationally recognisable criminal offences and to immediately and unconditionally release those held in pre-trial detention.
Article 19 has prepared an expert opinion examining the charges against the Altan brothers, at the request of their defence lawyers, which will be submitted to the court on Monday morning. The opinion argues that the charges levelled against the Altans amount to unlawful restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
For more detailed information regarding the context for free expression in Turkey, please see a joint statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2017.
For further information please contact:
Sarah Clarke, International Policy and Advocacy Manager, PEN International, [email protected]
Georgia Nash,Programme Officer – Middle East & North Africa / Europe & Central Asia, ARTICLE 19, [email protected]
Melody Patry, Head of Advocacy, Index on Censorship, [email protected]
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On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, dozens of activists and journalists gathered outside the Turkish Embassy in London to protest the arrest and imprisonment of journalists in Turkey. Index on Censorship joined Amnesty International, English Pen, Article 19 and others bearing signs and messages of hope.
Following the failed military coup in July of 2016, the Turkish government has unleashed a massive crackdown on its opposition, specifically targeting journalists, media outlets and educators.
Since then, over 150 journalists have been detained and over 170 media outlets have been shut down, resulting in an additional 2,500 journalists being out of work. Turkey is now the number one jailer of journalists in the world.
Seamus Dooley, the acting general secretary of the Nation Union of Journalists, addressed the protest, which took place across the street from the embassy: “We may be on the wrong side of the road but we are on the right side of history.”
Dooley highlighted the importance of coming out to protest in support of Turkey’s journalists, regardless of the weather: “Solidarity is the most important thing we can give them. Although this may seem like a dark time, the fact we are still with them shines a light on it.”
Many protesters stressed the importance of continuing to campaign until those being silenced in Turkey are free.
Ulrike Schmidt of Amnesty International said: “As a human rights organisation it’s our job to speak out. It’s World Press Freedom Day so we’re standing here to support the journalists in Turkey. We will keep campaigning until they can do their work again.”
Others spoke out specifically about friends who had been detained as a result of the crackdown. Two of the protesters (pictured below) came specifically to highlight the case of Ahmet Sik, a journalist with the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, who is currently being tried on accusations of spreading terrorist propaganda as well as insulting the state.
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