IPA Freedom to Publish Committee open meeting, 2017 Frankfurt

Turkey’s abysmal freedom of expression record was the focus of the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee open meeting on Wednesday, 11 October, as representatives of the 2017 co-winners of the prestigious IPA Prix Voltaire spoke about how important the prize was for them. (See our previous story about the winners.)

The Foreign Relations Coordinator, Yonca Cingoz, for IPA member, the Turkish Publishers Association, provided a brief summary of the current situation in Turkey, and then added:

“We find it very valuable that the Prix Voltaire, which is the only international prize dedicated to Freedom to Publish, has been given to two Turkish publishers this year. This support makes our publishers and Publisher Associations feel stronger and secure in our efforts to continue publishing. Despite the current severe discouragement of freedom to publish in Turkey, our desire is to reflect the large number of Turkish publishers who continue to publish tenaciously and the many Turkish readers who make any banned book a bestseller within a week of publication. We thank the IPA for awarding Turkish publishers the 2017 Prix Voltaire and for highlighting our struggle on an international level.”

One of the co-winners of this year’s IPA Prix Voltaire, the publisher and journalist, Turhan Günay, could not attend the Frankfurt meeting because his passport has been confiscated but he addressed the audience through a video. Watch the video. His daughter Elif Günay, who had accepted the prize on his behalf also spoke of the importance of the recognition which came with the Prix Voltaire. Turhan Günay later sent the following statement to the IPA:

“In times like these, when you’re being punished for what you write, what you publish, or what you express, one of the things that keeps you going is the support and solidarity that you receive. I am just one example of many people in Turkey who are fighting for freedom of expression and it is very important during these challenging times to feel the support of the world. When I was in prison, even the smallest news about our struggle gave me hope and being awarded such a great award as the IPA Prix Voltaire, strengthened my will to continue doing what I believe is right. This award has also meant that our stories are being heard all over the world and international support can have a considerable effect on the current situation in our country. Informing the world about what’s going on in Turkey and creating international solidarity are probably the greatest outcomes of this award. I will keep on defending freedom to publish and freedom of expression in Turkey with the confidence that we have many supporters all around the world who acknowledge our struggle and work with us in defending our rights.”

Finally, Cavit Nacitarhan, the Editor in Chief of the other co-winner of the award, the publishing house Evrensel commented:

“When dear Turhan Günay was brought to the courtroom in handcuffs and heard that he had been awarded the IPA Prix Voltaire, his first reaction was, ‘Ah, I wish they had given it to Evrensel, they deserve the prize more than me.’ And when I learned about Evrensel’s nomination, I immediately said, ‘It would be wonderful to share this award with Turhan Günay.’ In the end we found out that the prize was awarded to two winners jointly. The two of us, unaware of each other, reacting with such a shared feeling, may be the most flattering and unique aspect of this year’s prize. Similarly, the great support given to us at every step by so many organisations, including writers’ organisations, trade associations, our writers, our distributor, the printing house we work with, our paper supplier, the book fair executives, is a rare example of solidarity. For a publishing house which was closed right before the celebration of its 30th anniversary, the best thing that could happen is such a close-knit, priceless union of forces that makes our efforts much more visible and we believe that this union will continue for a long time. The IPA Prix Voltaire which we received shortly after also receiving the Turkish Publishers Association’s Freedom of Thought and Expression Award has further reinforced this visibility. People and organisations from numerous countries around the world have sent support messages to us and letters of protest to the institutions which took the decision to close our publishing house. The Prix Voltaire’s biggest contribution is this ever increasing solidarity and union of forces. We would like to repeat what we declared right after our closure by a Statutory Decree: We will GO ON writing, proofreading, translating, printing, talking and reading.”


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