His Excellency Selçuk Ünal
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada
197 Wurtemburg Street
Ottawa, ON, K1N8L9
I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.
CJFE strongly condemns the recent raids by Turkish police targeting opposition media outlets that resulted in 24 arrests. These arrests appear to be politically motivated, as the conflict between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his former ally, exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, continues to escalate at the expense of free expression rights in the country.
Journalists, television show producers, media executives, and several police officers have been accused of “founding and being members of an armed terrorist organization,” forgery and slander, even while the Turkish government has yet to produce any evidence that of such criminal offenses. Those targeted in the raids are known to have close connections with Gülen, who was publicly blamed by President Erdoğan for the corruption probe that targeted his inner circle in December 2013. These recent raids are only the most recent example journalists and news outlets critical of President Erdoğan's being oppressed and persecuted.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists for the third year in a row. CJFE’s 2013 International Press Freedom Award winner, Ahmet Şık, was among those vociferously targeted by the Turkish government and he spent a year in pre-trial detention under fabricated terrorism charges. Şık has spoken out critically against these most recent raids on “Gülenist” media outlets, as have the European Union and the Canadian government.
CJFE calls on the Turkish authorities to release the individuals illegitimately detained on December 14. We further call on the Turkish government to allow all journalists to operate freely in the country without fear of unfounded persecution, regardless of their viewpoint. Lastly, CJFE urges the government of President Erdoğan to take steps to guarantee the free expression rights of all individuals in the country.
We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.
Arnold Amber, CJFE President
Cc: Mr. John Holmes, Ambassador of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs