The arrest of award-winning investigative journalist Ahmet Şık once again highlights the growing post-coup crackdown in Turkey, English PEN and PEN International said today, as they reiterated calls for freedom of expression to be safeguarded during the current state of emergency.
Şık was arrested at his home in Istanbul this morning as a government crackdown targeting critical voices in the press intensified further.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:
We are deeply concerned at the news of Ahmet Şık’s arrest. The continuing harassment and intimidation of the media in Turkey is an unprecedented assault on press freedom. We call for Şık’s immediate release.
Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:
It’s deeply disturbing that Turkish authorities have detained Ahmet Şık on the same day that two other writers – Asli Erdogan and Necmiye Alpay – have been released from pre-trial detention,’
We are calling for Şık to be released immediately and unconditionally, if – as appears – he is being held soley for his use of social media to express legitimate criticism of the state and officials.
Turkish authorities have reportedly brought a ‘classified’ case against Şık using draconian state of emergency powers introduced since the failed coup attempt in July 2016. As a consequence of the classified status of the case against him, the grounds for Şık’s arrest have not been officially disclosed and he faces the prospect of being questioned without access to legal counsel for up to five days.
Press freedom has deteriorated rapidly in Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt, with close to 150 writers and journalists currently behind bars. Almost 170 news outlets have also been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree during the post-coup attempt state of emergency, a period that has been characterised by the heavy-handed use of extraordinary powers while normal constitutional protections are suspended.
While the grounds for Şık’s arrest have not been officially disclosed, the state-run Anatolian News Agency has reported that Şık’s arrest was related to a number of tweets and news stories critical of the Turkish government.
Amongst the articles cited by the Anatolian News Agency were news reports concerning Turkey’s alleged role in arming factions involved in the Syrian Civil War; an interview with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) senior leadership regarding the former peace process with Turkey; and a number of articles critical of the government’s handling of the conflict with the PKK in the aftermath of the collapse of the peace process.
Şık’s arrest comes a day after Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş warned members of the press to ‘watch their step’ during a press conference in Ankara.
English PEN and PEN International call on Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect their obligations under international law during the declared state of emergency and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
For further background information, please visit the English PEN website.