IPA and PEN condemn Turkey's obscenity laws

IPA and PEN condemn Turkey's obscenity laws

Ola Wallin, chair of the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish committee, has called for urgent reform of Turkish obscenity legislation in the light of the prosecution of publisher Irfan Sancı.

Wallin, along with Ann Harrison, programme director of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, made the call following Sancı's prosecution for publishing a translation of Guillaume Apollinaire’s Les Exploits d’un Jeune Don Juan (The Exploits of a Young Don Juan).

The Turkish court yesterday (17th December) threw out Sancı’s acquittal plea, and prosecution has been suspended for three years. The IPA said this meant “the publisher must live under constant threat of imprisonment”.

Wallin called the decision "deeply disappointing", arguing: “Mr Sancı is being punished for doing his job as a publisher, by making works of European literature available in translation. Apollinaire is an important figure in 20th-century literature. Publishers should not be persecuted simply because judges hold outdated opinions about a particular work. Cases such as these create an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment.”

He added: “There are many worrying examples of government censorship in Turkish courts at the moment, affecting publishers, translators, writers and journalists. In common with many Turkish and international organisations, we believe this severely undermines Turkey’s claims to be accepted into the European Union.”

Speaking from London, Harrison said: “While Turkey has taken incremental steps forward regarding freedom of expression in recent years, the overall situation still falls far short of internationally recognised standards.

“This trial is symptomatic of the continuing judicial harassment that many members of the literary community are subjected to in Turkey, and is yet more proof of the need for widespread legislative and judicial reform that will genuinely embed freedom of expression as a fundamental human right in the country.”

Both groups have pledged to campaign for Sancı’s acquittal and to continue to press the Turkish authorities to implement systemic reforms.