Tom Stoppard, Ali Smith and Ian Rankin have joined fellow UK PEN members in writing to prime minister David Cameron urging him to raise the "crisis" facing freedom of expression with the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, on his visit to London next week.
Twenty-five of the UK’s most eminent authors - including Elif Shafak, Owen Sheers, Sarah Waters and David Hare - and members of English PEN, Wales PEN Cymru and Scottish PEN, have voiced their "grave concerns about the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey" in the letter.
The signatories highlight the threats and physical assaults that journalists, writers and publishers have recently been faced with in Turkey, which include two attacks on the offices of the newspaper Hurriyet; the raid and seizure of media group Koza Ipek, which is known for being critical of the president; and the detention of three journalists working for Vice News, alongside prosecutions of journalists and further arrests.
The authors note that more Turkish citizens have been criminally prosecuted for "insulting the Turkish president" since President Erdoğan assumed office in 2014 than in the combined tenure of all of his predecessors, dating back to 1923.
The letter raises particular concerns about the pre-trial detention of Can Dϋndar, editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gϋl, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, who were arrested on espionage and national security charges last year, following their report that Turkey’s intelligence agency had delivered arms to Islamist rebel groups.
"It is vital that journalists in Turkey are allowed to perform their essential role in society, informing public debate and opinion without restraint or censorship," the letter argues. "Attacks on journalists, writers and publishers diminish the freedom of Turkish society as a whole."
The authors ask David Cameron to use this opportunity to ensure that Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s government acts in accordance with Turkey’s obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression.