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May 11, 2018

Editors urge Theresa May to raise press freedom concerns with Turkish president during UK visit

By Sam Forsdick

A group representing hundreds of UK editors has sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling on her to raise the issue of press freedom with the Turkish President when he visits this weekend.

The Society of Editors claims press freedom in Turkey has been “severely curtailed” under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) and described the current situation as “deeply concerning”.

Following an attempted coup in 2016, more than 180 news outlets have been shut down in Turkey and more than 250 journalists and media workers have been jailed, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

Turkey is currently the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.

Addressing Theresa May in a letter, SoE director Ian Murray wrote: “The society urges you, during your dialogue with President Erdogan, to raise these concerns and to remind him that journalism is not a crime nor should it be treated as such.

“It is hoped that the Turkish authorities will take steps to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and that independent news organisations will be given the freedom to report without fear of intimidation or persecution.”

Turkey currently ranks at 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, composed by Reporters Without Borders.

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Murray also commented on the imprisonment of Ahmet Atlan, former editor of the Taraf newspapers, and his journalist brother Mehmet.

Both men were given life sentences in February over allegations they supported US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the failed coup against President Erdogan, though Gulen denies this.

Murray said their jailing was “deeply disturbing”, adding: “Not only have the brothers lost their jobs and their livelihoods, they now face life in prison on charges that are dubious and appear to be seriously lacking in evidence.”

Erdogan is scheduled for a three day visit to the UK from this Sunday.

Theresa May’s spokesperson said: “The visit is an opportunity for the UK and Turkey to demonstrate our close bilateral relationship and to have important discussions about issues of shared interest.”

Picture: Reuters/Osman Orsal

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