Today I have received a reply from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Turkey Desk, Europe Directive) to a letter I wrote on 12 February to the Foreign Secretary, in which I called on the government to, amongst other things, put out a statement condemning the Turkish authorities over their treatment of Can and Erdem and support calls for their immediate release. My blog of 27 February reported their subsequent release and I updated the Foreign Office on these developments, but still asked what action they were taken over widespread concerns about the state of press freedom in Turkey. Their reply is as follows:
“The UK shares your concerns over freedom of the press in Turkey as does the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Commission. We believe that freedom of expression must be respected and all media outlets must be allowed to report freely.
“We strongly encourage Turkey to continue (to) work towards the full protection of fundamental rights, especially in the areas of minority rights, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We welcome progress made thus far and as the EU Commission highlights further sustained work is needed to meet EU standards.
“We continue to underline the importance of freedom of expression and all fundamental freedoms as part of our broader dialogue with the Turkish government. Our Ambassador in Ankara highlighted his concerns about the number of journalists detained in Turkey, including Mr Dündar and Mr. Gül, in his public blog released on International Human Rights day. The Prime Minister underlined the importance of protections for a free press and human rights to Prime Minister Davutoglu when they met of 7 March.
“The Foreign Secretary set out the UK’s concerns on freedom of expression when he met his counterpart on 12 March. The Minister for Europe also discussed media freedoms and rule of law issues with Deputy Prime Minister Simsek on 12 March.”
Tomorrow I am travelling to Istanbul to represent the IFJ/EFJ at the trial of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, due to start on Friday. I’ll report my findings in my next blog.