We stand in support of free expression in Turkey

Sunday, July 28, 2013

By Arnold Amber

Today marks exactly two months since the protests in Turkey began. They were started by environmentalists who opposed a plan to turn a much-loved, tree-filled park in Istanbul into a shopping mall – the kind of dispute not much different from those that occur in Toronto and other Canadian cities from time to time.

But in Turkey the government brutally evicted the demonstrators which inflamed many people across the country. Suddenly protests broke out in a number of cities – aimed mainly at the lack of freedom of assembly, of expression, of the press, and the government's encroachment on Turkey’s traditional secularism.

The government continued using force to quell the situation and since the protests started, about 4,900 protestors have been taken into custody, 4,000 have been injured, and seven people have been killed. Media workers, including some Canadians, have been singled out for special intimidation including frequent arrests and prosecutions in their attempt to cover the demonstrations.

We are also honouring the seven people who died. Six were protesters – one shot by police, one from a stroke after being smashed in the head by police, another crushed by a police vehicle, and three after being tear gassed. The seventh was a police officer who fell from a bridge while chasing protesters. The dead include one teenager and four others in their twenties.

At the request of the Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey, our action today is sending a message to the Turkish government that the repression is unacceptable. We have been asked to adopt the tactic that has become symbolic of the Turkish protesters – standing still, silently while government forces tried to disperse them.

Accordingly, one representative each from seven Canadian organizations in human rights, free expression and a media union are participating in this stand still action to show our support and solidarity with those who stood so bravely in the face of their government’s crushing attacks.

We have sent a letter to this effect to the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa and the Consulate in this building in Toronto and, starting exactly at noon, we will stand-still for seven minutes. And we do not stand alone. Similar demonstrations are taking place today in six other major cities – London, Paris, New York, Brussels, Budapest and Geneva.

Our message to the Turkish Government is clear – end the repression of free assembly, free expression and a free media. Let real freedom and democracy flourish for the benefit of all Turkish people.

The above statement was read by CJFE President Arnold Amber at today's gathering at the Turkish Embassy in Toronto, as seven organizations gathered to stand still in support of freedom of assembly and free expression in Turkey.

Organizations involved:
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Amnesty International Canada
Canadian Association of Journalists
Canadian Media Guild
Journalists for Human Rights
PEN Canada