In letter to Turkish president, editors sound alarm on media freedom

Letter also criticizes the detention in August of three journalists reporting for Vice News

Samuel Aranda/The New York Times/Redux

Samuel Aranda/The New York Times/Redux

ISTANBUL — Dozens of editors from leading international news organizations have written to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressing “profound concern regarding the deteriorating conditions for press freedom in Turkey.”

The letter is signed by editors of news organizations in more than two dozen countries, including The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Agence France-Presse, Germany’s ARD and Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun.

“We urge you to use your influence to ensure that journalists, whether Turkish citizens or members of the international press, are protected and allowed to do their work without hindrance,” the editors write.

Erdogan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers comes ahead of parliamentary elections Sunday. In recent days, international media watchdogs have called a crackdown on media in Turkey an emergency for journalists.

The letter notes recent attacks on the office of the Turkish daily Hurriyet following criticism of the newspaper by Erdogan. After the attacks, Hurriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan was chased and beaten.

The letter also mentions the seizure this week of media conglomerate Koza-Ipek. Police stormed the Istanbul headquarters early Wednesday and took television broadcasts off the air. A prosecutor has ordered Koza-Ipek Holding placed under the management of a trustee during an investigation of its ties to Fetullah Gulen, a U.S.-based moderate Islamic cleric the government accuses of trying to destabilize the state.

The letter also criticizes the detention in August of three journalists reporting for Vice News in Turkey’s restive Kurdish southeast. One of those journalists, Mohammed Rasool, is still in custody. Rasool, an Iraqi citizen, had worked as a news assistant for the AP and other organizations.

“We share widespread concerns that recent events are part of a concerted campaign to silence any opposition or criticism of the government in the run up to the election,” reads the letter, whose signatories include Kathleen Carroll, the executive editor of The Associated Press.

On Friday, the European Commission also raised concern, noting that the issue is crucial for Turkey’s application for European Union membership.

“Turkey, as any country negotiating its membership, needs to ensure the respect of human rights, including the freedom of expression, in line with the European convention of human rights,” said Commission spokeswoman Catherine Rey.

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