Condemning police violence against Gezi Park anniversary protesters

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

His Excellency Tuncay Babali
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada
197 Wurtemburg Street
Ottawa, ON K1N8L9

Dear Ambassador,

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 condemns the recent police violence against Gezi Park anniversary protesters and journalists in Turkey. Over 100 activists who participated in the demonstrations at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, in Taksim Square, were detained and at least six journalists were injured while covering the protests.

Turkish police reportedly fired teargas and rubber bullets at protesters in central Istanbul on May 31, 2014, as the country marked the one-year anniversary of the most significant anti-government demonstrations in decades. A year earlier, what began as protests against the development of Gezi Park into a shopping mall evolved into broader fury at the suppression of the democratic freedoms of assembly and expression in Turkey.

While reporting on the anniversary demonstrations from May 31-June 1, media workers were denied access to Taksim Square, while journalists were harassed and prevented from covering clashes between protesters and police. Among them was CNN International correspondent Ivan Watson and his crew, who were detained while reporting live at Taksim Square. Ahmet Şik, 2013 CJFE International Press Freedom Award winner and laureate of UNESCO’s 2014 World Press Freedom Prize, was also reportedly beaten by Turkish police while documenting the protests. While Turkish authorities later released the CNN crew after validating their identities, in the days following the protests Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Ivan Watson of being a foreign agent intent on exaggerating the anti-government protests and provoking unrest.

A year after the Gezi Park protests, it is clear that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are still very much under threat in Turkey. CJFE urges the Turkish government to release all protesters who were arrested during the recent demonstrations and ensure the safety of all journalists working in the country.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

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