German book trade calls for Turkey action

German book trade calls for Turkey action

The German Publishers and Booksellers Association has joined with freedom of speech organisations to launch an online petition calling on the German government and EU Commission to make an “uncompromising commitment” to freedom of expression in Turkey. Meanwhile, the International Publishers Association (IPA) has called for the immediate release of jailed Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan who was detained earlier this month.

Following an attempted coup last month, a crackdown in the country has seen the government close 29 Turkish presses under state of emergency regulations. Global publishing chiefs have already condemned the move.

Now the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels) has joined with the PEN Centre Germany and Reporters Without Borders to rally against the Turkish government's “aggressive campaign against freedom of expression”. The groups have launched the #FreeWordsTurkey campaign which calls on the public to sign an online petition which urges Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to take an "active and uncompromising stand" in favour of freedom of expression, freedom of information and freedom of the press. They also demand that "swift" and "non-bureaucratic" support be provided to persecuted journalists and authors, for example by means of emergency visas.

Alexander Skipis, managing director of the Börsenverein, said: “The Turkish government has unleashed a massive attack on freedom of expression. The German government and the EU Commission simply cannot be silent on this subject any longer. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and, as such, is non-negotiable. Politicians and governments have an obligation to confirm their uncompromising commitment to this basic right. We cannot allow freedom of expression to be undermined or instrumentalised for reasons of political expediency. We need to work together to break this silence and send out a clear signal of support for freedom of expression”.

Sascha Feuchert, vice president and writers-in-prison officer at PEN Centre Germany, added: “The arrests, intimidation and restrictions imposed on authors in Turkey must stop immediately. We have the right and responsibility to fight on behalf of our colleagues. The targeted measures currently underway against freedom of the press and freedom of expression mean that democracy is under threat not only in Turkey; the inaction of European political forces in the face of these events significantly jeopardises our own democratic values as well. We simply cannot stand by and accept this”.

Meanwhile, the International Publishers Association (IPA) has joined the Turkish Publishers Association in urging Ankara to "respect the basic rights and freedoms of writers and publishers" in light of the continuing detention of novelist, columnist and human rights activist, Aslı Erdoğan, who was arrested on 19th August 2016.

An advisory board member and columnist for pro-Kurdish opposition daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, Erdoğan is accused under anti-terror laws of "membership of a terrorist organisation", "propagandising for a terrorist organisation", as well as "incitement to violence and disobedience of the law". She denies all the charges.

IPA president Richard Charkin said: "The Turkish government has a disgraceful record of exploiting anti-terrorism laws to silence its critics; now they seem to be using further increased powers under the state of emergency to gag even more dissenters. We urge President Erdogan to change this dangerously destructive policy, to release Aslı Erdoğan, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya immediately and to prove that freedom of expression and human rights have a future in Turkey."

Next month, the London Review Bookshop is to host a “mini Turkish season” in response to the recent events that have occurred in Turkey.