“I was ready to pay the price to reveal the truth.” When Turkish author, investigative reporter, and International Press Institute (IPI) World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Şener published his 2007 book on the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, he understood the peril faced by journalists in Turkey.
Mr. Şener is now paying that price. Last week, he spent his 250th day in prison, though he has not been convicted of any crime. Next week, on 22 November, he is scheduled to face a first hearing on apparently baseless charges that he belongs to an armed terrorist group.
This March, Mr. Şener was arrested and accused of being part of the so-called Ergenekon plot, in which an alleged clandestine ultra-nationalist organisation with ties to military and security forces is said to have plotted to use terrorism to overthrow the government. The investigation against Mr. Şener is being carried out by the same law-enforcement figures whom he accused of neglect in his book on Hrant Dink.
Mr. Şener’s case is the Turkish government’s latest salvo in its assault on press freedom. By the government’s own admission, at least 50 other journalists are behind bars in the country, making Turkey one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists.
In a 26 October letter to IPI, Mr. Şener wrote, “At the end of the day, the indictment and its appendix show that the prosecution’s only charge against me is journalism. Therefore, it is journalism that will be tried in court.” He resolved to fight for the pursuit of truth “until the end of my life”.
No journalist should be imprisoned for reporting the truth. That Mr. Şener sits behind bars is a tragedy and casts a dark shadow over Turkey’s professed commitment to an open and democratic society.
IPI stands with Mr. Şener and is fighting to do all it can to free him and all others who are in jail for practising journalism. IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said of Mr. Şener, “I want him to know that neither I nor IPI will rest until we are able to see him face-to-face, no bars in sight.”
But IPI needs your help.
We need you to write to Prime Minister Erdoğan and tell him that you value the truth. Let him know that you support Mr. Şener and freedom of the press in Turkey. Let him know that there are those who care about the freedom of expression, and the peoples' right to know.
Urge the Prime Minister to conduct any legal proceedings against Mr. Şener as transparently as possible or to otherwise release him immediately.
Free Press. Free World.
Dear Prime Minister Erdoğan,
I am writing to express my deep concern over the detention and trial of author and investigative reporter Nedim Şener, who stands accused of belonging to an armed terrorist group. I would like to use this opportunity to emphasise to you my firm belief in the value of a free media in a democracy. No journalist should fear retribution for having the courage to investigate and report the truth. Without access to such information, citizens of any society are fundamentally disempowered.
If there is evidence to support the charges against Mr. Şener, then I urge you to see that the legal proceedings against him are conducted as fairly and openly as possible. If not, I would ask you to have Mr. Şener released immediately. Please do not allow him to be punished simply for being a journalist.