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Writer, publisher, and bookstore owner win free expression awards from publishers' union; 43 books on trial in 2006

(BIANET/IFEX) - The following is a 29 June 2007 BIANET press release:

Freedom of Expression a Must

The Turkey Publishers' Union (TYB) awards Freedom of Thought and Expression Prizes annually, always hoping that there will not be any need for these kinds of prizes in the future.

This year, on 28 June, awards were given to writer Elif Safak; to Deniz Zarakolu, in the name of his father, publisher Ragip Zarakolu of Belge Publishers; and to a bookstore owner from Bartin (Black Sea region), Esen Afsin.

TYB president Cetin Tüzüner said in his opening speech, "One of the priorities of our politicians who will be voted into parliament in a month's time is to open the way for fundamental rights and to change parts of the Turkish Penal Code and the Law for the Struggle Against Terrorism that are contradictory and open to interpretation and that prevent the production of thought."


Üstün Akmen, president of Turkey's PEN branch, handed a prize to Esen Afsin, bookstore owner.

Enver Ercan, president of the Turkey Writer's Trade Union (TYS), handed an award to Deniz Zarakolu, son of publisher Ragip Zarakolu. He said, "The problem with the meaning of freedom of expression lies not with laws or application, but with the mentality of the state. It is not the job of governments to judge thoughts and to categorise them as good or bad. Otherwise, there is no difference from an authoritarian regime."

Writer Elif Safak accepted her award in the name of writers whose books are forbidden or who are on trial. She said, "I used to believe that literature and words were innocent. But now we are forced to write considering what each word may cost us. This award has been given to me at a difficult time."


According to Tüzüner, 43 writers and 24 publishers were on trial over 43 books written and published in 2006. Thirteen of these trials ended in imprisonment; eight with acquittal. Five have been dismissed, while 17 are ongoing.

Metin Celal of TYB introduced the "2007 Report of the Freedom of Publication Committee", drawing attention to the frequency of legal action against freedom of expression and publishing. Özgür Radyo (Free Radio) and newspapers "Gündem", "Birgün", "Atýlým" and "Evrensel" and other publications have all suffered temporary closures.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the General Staff ranked highest among persons and institutions bringing suits against writers.

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