The letter was also sent to President Abdullah Gül as well as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, Turkish Ambassador to Washington Namık Tan and other officials.
The recent arrest of journalists, including investigative reporters Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, on charges of alleged links to the suspected Ergenekon coup-plotting conspiracy has drawn criticism from the European Union, the United States and many human rights organizations.
“The recent detention of journalists is based on an attempt to block reporting on two issues that your government apparently wants to keep quiet – the activities of the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, which has been an issue for a long time, and the more recent Ergenekon plot of senior officers and others allegedly aiming to overthrow your government,” Main and McDermott said in the letter.
“Both are terrorist organizations and certainly subject to prosecution. But to confuse their activities with those of journalists who report and investigate their activities is wrong,” they wrote, adding that these subjects should not be taboo.
They also said that if journalists were intimidated or prevented from reporting on big issues facing Turkey, then one of the main pillars of democracy would collapse.
The Turkish government professes a belief in freedom of the press and subscribes to international conventions on human rights, the letter said, but added that, in practice, the country hemmed in that freedom with vague offenses such as “insulting the Turkish state.”
“How absurd these restrictions can become is illustrated by the case of the mayor of Rize who allegedly said, ‘Kurds should have co-wives in order to solve the Kurdish question.’ He was criticized for the statement and was temporarily suspended as mayor by your party,” recalled Main and McDermott in the letter.
“He subsequently apologized, and yet he sued a journalist for criticizing him for not solving Rize’s water shortage. Last month, that journalist, Ahmet Topcu, of the Vira Karadeniz, was sentenced to 11 months in jail for an attack on the mayor’s ‘personal rights.’ In other words, while the perpetrator gets a slap on the wrist, the messenger gets sentenced to prison,” they added.
The OPC, founded in 1939 in New York, seeks to maintain an international association of journalists working in the United States and abroad and to contribute to the freedom and independence of journalists and the press throughout the world.
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Jailing of journalists chided by US press group March 29, 2011 FULYA ÖZERKAN ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News