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#FreeWordsTurkey petition with 111,047 signatures presented to Germany’s federal government | Initiators call for decisive efforts on behalf of persecuted authors and journalists, such as Deniz Yücel

24.02.2017

Presentation of the petition to government spokesperson Steffen Seibert and the chancellor’s foreign policy and security policy advisor, Dr. Christoph Heusgen / Turkish journalist Can Dündar accompanies delegation to the Chancellery / Petition organised by German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V.), PEN Centre Germany (PEN-Zentrum Deutschland) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporter ohne Grenzen e.V.) with support from change.org / A press photo will be available at www.boersenverein.de/pressefotos

Berlin, 24 February 2017 – Today, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V.), the PEN Centre Germany (PEN-Zentrum Deutschland) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporter ohne Grenzen e.V.) emphatically called on the German government to express its uncompromising commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Turkey. They urged the government to work diligently to gain the immediate release of detained and imprisoned authors and journalists, such as Deniz Yücel, the German-Turkish correspondent for the “Die Welt” newspaper. Representatives of the three organisations visited the Chancellery to hand over the #FreeWordsTurkey petition to government spokesperson Steffen Seibert and Chancellor Merkel’s foreign and security policy advisor, Dr. Christoph Heusgen. Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist living in exile in Germany, supported the petition and accompanied the delegation. Exactly 111,047 people have visited the change.org platform and signed www.freewordsturkey.de/petition since September 2016. The petition calls on the German federal government and the EU Commission to make an uncompromising commitment to defending freedom of expression, information and the press in Turkey.

At the meeting in the Chancellery, Alexander Skipis, managing director of the Börsenverein, argued that “we have come to the point where concrete action needs to follow up the lip service paid so far by government bodies. Since the launch of the #FreeWordsTurkey petition, the situation of authors, publishers and cultural and creative artists in Turkey has gotten worse; indeed we have even seen an increase in the terrifying rage against people who express any kind of dissenting opinion. And all the while, political actors sit by and watch, largely idle. We therefore call on Angela Merkel and the German federal government to remain firmly committed to human rights and – under no circumstances – to jeopardise freedom of opinion or instrumentalise freedom of speech by making it the subject of negotiations in connection with various economic interests, refugee-related issues or NATO bases”.

Regula Venske, secretary general of the PEN Centre Germany and a PEN International executive committee member, noted: “The ongoing oppression of the media in Turkey undermines not only the freedom of the Turkish people but also the stability of the country and the region on the whole. We urge the German government to put pressure on the Turkish president to withdraw or adjust the measures put in place in connection with the state of emergency, especially those that contradict the international human rights obligations of his country. We also call on the German federal government to use their influence to halt the intimidation of journalists and the media carried out by Turkish institutions. They must also take all necessary steps to investigate assaults and attacks on journalists and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Indeed, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential elements in any open democracy”.

Reporters Without Borders spokesman Michael Rediske argued that “the German government cannot continue to hold back its public criticism. While it is indeed working behind the scenes to free individual journalists, such as Deniz Yücel, it is ignoring the other, more than 100 journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey. We urge Chancellor Merkel to name names in public and demand their release”.

Click here to see the petition: www.freewordsturkey.de/petition

Press Material
A press photo depicting the handing over of the petition will be available at www.boersenverein.de/pressefotos

About the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels:
The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association) represents the interests of the German book industry in the political and public arenas. It was founded in 1825 and its current members include roughly 5,000 booksellers, publishers, wholesalers and other media companies. It runs the Frankfurt Book Fair and awards the annual Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and the German Book Prize. It also encourages reading and defends the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to publish. www.boersenverein.de

About the PEN Centre Germany:
The PEN Centre Germany is one of over 140 writers associations belonging to PEN International. Its three letters stand for the words poets, essayists and novelists. PEN was founded in 1921 in England as a literary circle of friends and quickly spread out to other countries across the globe, establishing itself as an advocate for freedom of expression worldwide. Today it is considered to be the voice of persecuted and suppressed writers everywhere. www.pen-deutschland.de

About Reporters Without Borders:
Reporter without Borders (ROB) researches and monitors violations against freedom of expression and freedom of the press worldwide. It alerts the public when journalists and their colleagues are in danger and/or suffering persecution. The organisation works to gain more safety and better security for journalists. It fights both online and offline against censorship, against the use and export of censorship software and against restrictive media laws. The RWB Emergency Commission also supports persecuted journalists and their families, for example, by replacing destroyed or confiscated equipment and by paying fees for lawyers and doctors. When an individual’s life in is danger in their home country, RWB helps them migrate to a secure country. The German branch of Reporters without Borders has been active since 1994 and is part of Reporters sans frontières, a Paris-based organisation founded in 1985 with a worldwide network of correspondents. www.reporter-ohne-grenzen.de

Media contacts:

Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V. / German Publishers and Booksellers Association
Thomas Koch, Press Officer, Tel.: +49 (0) 69 1306-292, t.koch@boev.de
Alexander Vieß, Editor Web & Social Media, Tel.: +49 (0) 69 1306-296, viess@boev.de

PEN-Zentrum Deutschland / PEN Centre Germany
Sascha Feuchert, Vice President and Writers-in-Prison Officer, Tel. +49 (0) 641 9929093, Sascha.Feuchert@germanistik.uni-giessen.de

Reporter ohne Grenzen / Reporters without Borders
Ulrike Gruska/Christoph Dreyer, Press Officers, Tel. +49 (0)30 60 98 95 33-55, presse@reporter-ohne-grenzen.de 

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