World Editors Forum Calls on Turkey to Free Jailed Journalists

Jun 72017

ICFJ Board Member David Callaway called on Turkey to free all journalists imprisoned for their work as he presented the Golden Pen of Freedom award to exiled Turkish editor Can Dundar at the World News Media Congress Wednesday in Durban, South Africa.

He noted that about 150 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, the most of any country in the world.

“We cannot let up. Our Turkish colleagues need our support now more than ever. Journalism is not a crime,” said Callaway, who became the head of the World Editors Forum during the meeting in South Africa. Callaway is the CEO of The Street.

In accepting the award, Dundar noted that the very first Golden Pen of Freedom was given to a Turkish journalist, Ahmet Emin Yalman, in 1961, the year of Dundar’s birth. He noted the similarities in their cases: both newspaper editors imprisoned for their work, both survivors of assassination attempts.

“Nothing has changed for journalists in more than a half century in Turkey,” he said.

Dundar was the editor of Cumhurriyet newspaper in 2016 when the newspaper published an account of weapons being sent by Turkish forces across the border to Syrian Islamist fighters. Dundar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gul were arrested over the report. They spent 92 days in jail until being freed when the Supreme Court ruled their imprisonment an “undue deprivation of liberty.”

Dundar survived an assassination attempt outside the Istanbul courthouse, and subsequently went into exile in Germany. Dundar noted that many of his colleagues are among the 150 journalists in prison in Turkey.

“Anyone who makes a stand does so at great risk of life,” he said.

Dundar closed his speech by “hoping to one day hold this meeting in a free Turkey.”