The Turkish regime continues its crackdown against journalists, writers, and intellectuals, as leading novelist Elif Shafak appealed to the international community to offer support after the country's prosecutors called for an examination of her novels.
Shafak said that Turkey today is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, adding that it is also very tough for academics. She noted that there are thousands of people who have lost their jobs just for signing a peace petition, cited by The Observer.
This examination comes amid a wave of investigations by Turkish prosecutors targeting academics, writers, and authors, after a debate on the country’s novelists tackling challenging subjects such as child abuse and sexual violence.
As reported by The Guardian, Shafak is the most high-profile critic to be pursued in the crackdown. Last week the writer Abdullah Şevki with his publisher Alaattin Topçu were targeted over a scene in one of his novels, published in 2013, in which a paedophile describes the sexual abuse of a child.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has detained thousands of rights activists, journalists, and lawyers since the failed putsch against Erdoğan in 2016.
Özgür Ögret, the Turkish representative of the Committee to protect journalists (CPJ), told 7Dnews that freedom in Turkey has been in continuous decline for several years, with state repression against independent journalists and criticising media worsening after the 2016 attempted coup.
He added that critical journalism is still possible although the space for independent reporting has been shrinking. But the journalist who dares to report independently from the government take serious risks by doing so.
Speaking to 7Dnews from New York, Ögret said the government has been systematically gagging independent voices. Turkey has been the world’s worst jailer of journalists in recent years.
Turkey is placed 157th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index report of 2018, by pressure group Reporters Without Borders. Turkey is the "world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists" according to that report.
The government crackdown continues along with attacks, violence and online abuse against authors and journalists. Last month five opposition and liberal journalists were attacked in the capital city of Ankara, according to local media.
The chief editor of the southern Turkish regional Guney Haberci newspaper Ercin Çevik, Yeniçag columnist Yavuz Selim Demirag, Akdeniz Yeni Yuzyıl newspaper columnist İdris Ozyol, former columnist, with left-wing nationalist Turkish daily Aydınlık Sabahattin Onkibar and Hakan Denizli, the founder of Adana Egemen newspaper, were all attacked in separate incidents. Ayşe Kulin, was among authors who have been subject to widespread online abuse for scenes in a 2008 novel.
“For many years, especially since the crackdown on independent media intensified, CPJ has worked to put Turkey in the spotlight and defend the rights of journalists to report freely and without fear of reprisal,” Ögret said
Turkey’s representative confirmed that the government refused requests to allow CPJ to visit journalists in jail, however, the committee continues to advocate for the release of many journalists who languish in jail simply for reporting in a way that did not please the officials.