Concern about free expression rights in Turkey for journalists and demonstrators

Friday, July 26, 2013

His Excellency Tuncay Babali, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Ottawa
197 Wurtemburg Street
Ottawa, ON
K1N 8L9

Dear Ambassador,

We the undersigned are writing to express our serious concern about the free expression rights of people involved in the peaceful protests in major Turkish cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Mersin, and the journalists covering these demonstrations.

July 28, 2013, marks two months since the protests began in Taksim Square. Since then, 4,900 protestors have been taken into custody, 4,000 have been injured, and seven people – six protestors and a police officer – have been killed. The severe response to these demonstrations and the curtailing of the right to freedom of assembly and free expression is not warranted.

There has also been abusive treatment and prosecution of journalists covering the protests. At least four Turkish journalists have been arrested, two Canadian journalists, Derek Stoffel and Saša Petricic, were detained, and several photographers have had their photos forcibly deleted. Authorities have also used tear gas and water cannons on cameramen. Fines and publication bans have been imposed upon media outlets for their coverage of the protests. Also of concern is Prime Minister Erdogan’s request that Facebook and Twitter hand over private user data to the government, as well as the arrests of 25 people detained on accusations of using social media to spread false information about the protests and police response.

These actions by the Turkish government violate the basic human right to free expression. To show support for the journalists and demonstrators in Turkey, seven organizations will join in a global solidarity action on Sunday, July 28 in Toronto. The groups are: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), PEN Canada, IFEX, Amnesty International Canada, Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Canadian Media Guild (CMG). A representative from each of the seven organizations will take part in a collective “stand-still” for seven minutes to honour the seven people who have lost their lives during the protests.

With this commemorative action, these organizations call for the government of Turkey to uphold the right to free expression of all its citizens and to ensure that journalists are able to do their jobs without fear of reprisal.

Thank you for your attention and we look forward to your reply.


Arnold Amber, President, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Annie Game, Executive Director, IFEX
Mala Naraine, Turkey Coordinator, Amnesty International Canada
Charlie Foran, President, PEN Canada
Rachel Pulfer, Executive Director, Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)
Maryam Shah, Toronto Chapter President, Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ)
Carmel Smyth, President, Canadian Media Guild (CMG)
Martin O’Hanlon, Director, Communications Workers of America/Syndicat des communications d’Amérique (CWA-SCA)

CC: Mr. Ali Riza Güney, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Toronto
Mr. John Holmes, Ambassador of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

More information

How you can participate in our global solidarity action