In an open letter to Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ömer Çelik, English PEN welcomes him to the 2013 London Book Fair, at which Turkey will be a “market focus.” PEN notes with regret, however, that this celebration of Turkish literary vigor comes at a time when major authors and intellectuals are subject to imprisonment and government harassment because of the ideas they express.
PEN welcomes positive changes within Fourth Judicial Package, but notes that they do not go far enough in addressing basic attacks on freedom of expression:
As a charity that promotes literature and defends the right to freedom of expression, we regret, however, the continuing challenges faced by writers, editors and journalists in Turkey. According to the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee’s most recent case list (July-December 2012) there are currently more cases of concern to PEN in Turkey than in any other country in the world. While we are pleased to note that the 4th Judicial Reform package has gone some way to addressing some of the limitations to free speech in Turkey, we are concerned that existing laws, and their interpretation, still curtail the ability to exercise a fundamental human right.
PEN also highlights on-going cases against Fazıl Say, Büşra Ersanlı, and Ahmet Şık as well as the on-going detention of Zeynep Kuray.
The PEN letter concludes:
We firmly believe that the charges against these writers are in violation of their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and association, principles to which the Turkish government is committed as a signatory to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights. We therefore respectfully call on the authorities to drop all charges against Say, Ersanlı and Şık, and to release Kuray and the many others currently detained.