Ola Wallin, Chair of the International Publishers Association's Freedom to Publish Committee, and Ann Harrison, Programme Director of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee, today called for urgent reform of Turkish obscenity legislation.
They were speaking following the trial of Irfan Sancı, a Turkish publisher who was prosecuted for publishing a translation of Guillaume Apollinaire's 1911 novel, Les Exploits d'un jeune Don Juan. Today the court threw out Mr Sancı's acquittal plea. Prosecution has merely been suspended for three years, meaning the publisher must live under constant threat of imprisonment.
Mr Wallin said, "Today's decision verdict is deeply disappointing. Mr Sancı is being punished for doing his job as a publisher, by making works of European literature available in translation. Apollinaire is an important figure in 20th century literature. Publishers should not be persecuted simply because judges hold outdated opinions about a particular work. Cases such as these create an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment".
Commenting from London, Ms Harrison said, "While Turkey has taken incremental steps forward regarding freedom of expression in recent years, the overall situation still falls far short of internationally recognised standards. This trial is symptomatic of the continuing judicial harassment that many members of the literary community are subjected to in Turkey, and is yet more proof of the need for widespread legislative and judicial reform that will genuinely embed freedom of expression as a fundamental human right in the country."
Mr Wallin added, "There are many worrying examples of government censorship in Turkish courts at the moment, affecting publishers, translators, writers and journalists. In common with many Turkish and international organisations, we believe this severely undermines Turkey's claims to be accepted into the European Union."
Both organisations pledged to campaign for Mr Sancı's acquittal and to continue to press the Turkish authorities to implement much needed systemic reforms.
More about IPA:
The International Publishers Association (IPA) is an international industry federation representing all aspects of book and journal publishing. Established in 1896, IPA's mission is to promote and protect publishing and to raise awareness for publishing as a force for economic, cultural and political development. Around the world IPA actively fights against censorship and promotes copyright, literacy and freedom to publish.IPA is a trade association with a human rights mandate.
More about PEN International:
Founded in 1921, PEN International is a global community of writers which now numbers more than 20,000 and spans more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications aim to connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world. We are poets, playwrights, essayists, editors and novelists – from which the original acronym for our name was taken – as well as translators, academics, publishers, journalists and Internet writers. In fact, we are everyone who works with the written and spoken word, and who believes that the right to read and write is vital to the well-being of any community.