Fourteen journalists and writers in France penned letters for their Turkish colleagues, currently behind bars or recently-released, as part of a solidarity campaign with the media in Turkey.
“14 French personalities, godmothers and sponsors of imprisoned journalists, take the pen or their pencil to support their godchildren and confreres who are fighting in Turkey for the right to the information. So that the journalists behind bars know that we do not forget them, to give them courage in this repressive and suffocating closed-door, to make their fight heard across borders,” French weekly Nouvelobs said Jan 11.
Turkey remains the world’s largest jail for the journalists, according to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
What follow are the 14 letters written by French figures to Turkish counterparts.
- Sorj Chalandon, godfather of Ahmet Sik
It’s hard to wish anyone who is behind bars.
Free man, in front of the barbed wire of the prison of Silivri, I would have shouted my wishes as one shouts his anger. Turtledove, I would have flown over the city, the fields of short grass, the meshed buildings, to tear the clouds and sting towards the camp. Strong wind, I would be born off Büyükçekmece. I would have gained strength over the Sea of Marmara, swollen with sand, salt, all the rains to come, I would have blown west to shake the walls of the prison.
Free man, turtledove and wind, I wish you nothing but justice.
You’re not alone, Ahmet. Your family, your friends, your friends in Turkey or elsewhere, all are a little of your confiscated freedom, birds flying over you and the wind that speaks to you.
Your revenge to all, will be the laughter of your children.
Sorj Chalandon, writer and journalist
- Pierre Haski, godfather of Ahmet Altan
We never met, but I saw you; you were on a television screen, not in one of those talk shows where you used to fight, but in a courtroom in the Istanbul courthouse last November. You were videoconferencing from your prison, with your brother Mehmet, also detained like you, for your own trial.
What can we wish for a man against whom three life sentences have been required by the public prosecutor, who is awaiting the conclusion of his trial? Not freedom because, as you have beautifully written, you already have it in your head, whatever the size of the bars of your cell that will never stop you from feeling free. So at least justice, the one you are obviously denied today in Turkey.
With my full solidarity and my admiration for the courage you show.
Pierre Haski, president of Reporters Without Borders, founder of Rue89
- Bernard Pivot, godfather of Turhan Günay
I do not know you but I have a lot of sympathy for you – to which I add my admiration for your courage.
Both of us love literature and the freedom to think, to read and to write. We want to punish you by dragging you to court.
It’s silly and scandalous. This intolerance is intolerable. I hope that 2018 will end it.
With my friendly solidarity.
Bernard Pivot, journalist
- Elise Lucet, godmother of Aysenur Parildak
The year 2018 begins and I know you in prison. I imagine you in your cell, as it is difficult to send you vows as traditionally done to all his friends at this time of year. Yet it is to you that I send these wishes first. I wish you of course to find freedom but especially to keep the strength that characterizes you. I know how difficult it must be for you, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison last November for belonging to an armed terrorist organization. You were a law student and you wrote judicial columns for the newspaper “Zaman”. When you were arrested, you were beaten and sexually assaulted.
Lately, you wrote: I’m afraid we’ll be forgotten … No, we do not forget you !!! I’m sending you all the strength you need. From the one that crosses the thick walls of detention centers in Turkey. We will continue to fight for you and for the hundreds of our sisters or brothers who are being pursued or detained by the Erdogan government. #LiberezLesTous
Elise Lucet, journalist at France Télévisions (“Special Envoy”, “Cash investigation”)
- Edwy Plenel, godfather of Tunca Ögreten
Dear Tunca Ögreten,
We have not traded since your private message on Twitter, December 7, the day after your release after 323 days of imprisonment. You kindly thanked me for the support I give you on behalf of Mediapart. Yet we do so little when you, as well as all other Turkish journalists prosecuted, jailed, tried for doing only their job, you risk so much. Your freedom, your job, your job, your life in short.
In the first days of this new year, which will also be that of your trial on April 3, I would of course wish you the best, kindness, beauty, health, peace, in short, happiness. But I mistrust vows, probably by professional deformation: journalists, we know that history is never written in advance, as the unpredictable and the improbable are the masters. Who would have expected, for example, to come to call you a terrorist while revealing corruption in the heart of power, you only served the right to know of your fellow citizens?
The fate that is done to you is an alarm for us all, beyond your country. To accept that one attacks the freedom to inform, which supposes the duty to reveal and the right to criticize, is to resign oneself to the decline of democracy. In our troubled and uncertain times, in all latitudes, many powers and many politicians are tempted by the criminalization of journalism. Here, fortunately, these are only words, some people say that we want to be thirsty and that we are removed from the public debate … No doubt they are simply afraid of the truth, so much they fear that we discover how weak they are, ignorant and irresponsible.
Dear Tunca, you are today, with all your sisters and brothers, the honor of our profession.
I greet you fraternally,
Edwy Plenel, journalist, co-founder of Mediapart
- Plantu, godfather of Musa Kart
- Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, godfather of Inan Kizilkaya
We do not know each other. We never met, we never traded. You’re just a name, I’m just another.
And yet, I think of you.
I think of you because I do not understand what’s happening to you. Or rather, I understand it only too much. You are a journalist, and you wanted to do your job. Just your job. Reporter. “The job of the journalist is to show what is,” you said in March 2017 in front of the 23rd chamber of the criminal court of the courthouse in Caglayan.
You had been arrested a year earlier for “belonging to an illegal organization”. I tried to understand what could be this “illegal organization”. I am not sure I have seized. What I am certain, however, is that at the time of your arrest you had just been appointed to the chief editor of the newspaper “Ozgur Gundem”. Is a newspaper in Turkey an “illegal organization”? Perhaps … The wind blowing over your country is bitter, very bitter. He extinguishes everything.
And you have been extinguished. On August 16, 2016, when Turkish police broke into the editorial offices, 92 lawsuits were already open against you. Yes, 92! And you are no exception in this country with a bitter wind. Before you embark, you had time to say a few words: “Since the war started against the Kurds, the state has gone on the offensive against us”. Yes you are Kurdish, I did not specify it.
You spent 440 days in prison. You found on 31 October 2017 a temporary freedom. A little over 40 years old, you still risk a life sentence. On March 6, 2018, you will appear again and you may know a little more.
I would like to believe it. It’s difficult for me. When a state raises the bitter wind, it dispossesses itself. The wind does not belong to anyone. From that you are convinced, Inan Kizilkayaz. That’s why you fight, why you want. “It’s history and society that will have the last word,” you say.
Inan, I’m thinking of you. I think of these words that you launched in audience: “A journalist can not turn a blind eye to reality, to events, to tragedies, on the pretext that it could inconvenience or provoke repercussions.” Your words are mine, are ours.
I can not close my eyes to what’s happening to you, on that bitter wind that would like to extinguish you.
I want to believe that you will be stronger than the wind.
For all of us.
Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, writer, journalist, founder of the magazine “XXI“
- Fabienne Sintes, godmother of Zehra Dogan
In recent weeks, thanks to your friends who are struggling for you, I have come to know you and especially to know your work. For those who do not know it, you’ve been locked up for a long time for a painting. And a text.
Your country, and its chaos, you draw them as much as you write them. And it is this freedom of mind that we want to lock up. It would take much more to silence you. That too, I learned from reading about you and your work. There is also a video “Eyes wide open”, and everyone should take five minutes of their time to watch and understand.
So of course, for 2018, it’s the freedom that I wish you. That of coming and going; that too, to write and paint; as we do here without fully realizing the chance that is ours. May 2018 be the year of your freedom, as well as that of all the others, imprisoned unjustly for writing in a newspaper.
And for us, lucid, but warmly settled in our free countries, that 2018 is the year when all of us will be able to keep our eyes wide open on the fate reserved for journalists, artists, and all those who are unjustly locked up or forbidden to work in Turkey.
Fabienne Sintes, journalist at France-Inter
- Florence Aubenas, godmother of Cihan Acar
Dear Cihan Acar,
By sending you this letter today, I can not help thinking that there is something deeply wrong in this gesture. It’s me, a journalist in France, who writes to you and you, a journalist in Turkey, who reads me.
You do not think it’s the opposite that should happen?
I have so many questions to ask you since I saw your picture, stopped between two policemen. One of your colleagues explained, on a tweet, that you were nicknamed “Cihan Cemetery” for your exceptional coverage of funeral ceremonies as much in memory of Kurdish opponents as celebrities. Last summer, you were finally released from prison, but where is your file now? What is your life like today? Do you come to work? And Turkey, how is she, the streets, the people, the villages? What do you miss most since your diary is banned? What story, what ceremony did not you tell us?
Seen from here, we have more and more trouble hearing from you and your country.
What I wish you for 2018, my dear Cihan, is that you can answer just one of these questions. Freely.
Florence Aubenas, journalist for the daily newspaper “Le Monde”
- Annick Cojean, godmother of Kadri Gürsel
I was not able to attend the hearing of your trial on December 25, being in the Indian Ocean. But you know how much that day, I thought very strongly to these brave journalists like you who presented themselves before a sham justice and magistrates with the orders of the power. Our little exchange after this grotesque hearing during which one of your colleagues – Ahmed Sik – was expelled from the room and ended with a postponement of the trial in March (leaving so many journalists in prison) showed me how close you were to your positions, but also, with the elegance that characterizes you, how much you did not want this to spoil this holiday or holiday period in France: “life must go on”, m ‘ you wrote.
She continues, of course, Kadri. But which journalist might not be concerned about what’s happening in Turkey right now? Which journalist would not be horrified by these purges decided by Erdogan in all sectors, and especially in the field of information? What a journalist would not feel tremendously supportive of you all, worthy and honest journalists, who have done only your beautiful and necessary job: that of informing. “A journalist imprisoned is my freedom of expression that is gagged!”, Says the slogan we have chosen to show you our support. Yes, we all, journalists, must form a solidarity chain. And what happens to one of us concerns everyone else as well. Bad wind is blowing on information around the world.
You have already spent eleven months in prison, Kadri. Eleven months. And you risk a lot more. It is a total injustice. A pure scandal. Because not only are you innocent of the absurd crimes of which you are accused – “terrorist activities”, what a joke! – but you are the honor of the press in Turkey. So our honor to all.
“In prison, I never counted days and months, I always looked forward,” you said recently, adding not feeling hatred, just anger. Anger “especially philosophical, spiritual.” Yes Kadri, we too, at the Albert-Londres Prize, at SCAM, at RSF, we are very angry.
So I wish you the best for 2018. I wish you to be laundered of these crap. I wish you to recover complete freedom of movement and action. I wish you to be able to exercise our good profession with the flame, competence and integrity that you have always shared and that your confreres around the world have admired for so long. I also wish you, of course, a personal and family happiness. The kiss given to your wife the day you left prison last September went around the world as a magnificent symbol of freedom. Finally, I wish, to use your expression, that Turkish journalism comes out of the “coma” in which Erdogan plunged it.
Receive my affectionate and supportive friendships.
Annick Cojean, President of the Albert-Londres Prize, journalist at the “World”
- Catherine Clément, godmother of Cagdas Erdogan
Dear godson, my dear boy,
I have just been informed that you were officially accused of belonging to a terrorist organization. I would like to give you courage, the courage to face this trying time. The story is full of heroes who, after a stay in prison, have become the liberators of their people! It’s hard. If I could do more, I would do it.
I wish you nights full of dreams and days without trouble.
Hoping that 2018 will be the year of your freedom,
I kiss you,
Catherine Clément, philosopher, woman of letters
- Jean-Claude Guillebaud, godfather of Mehmet Altan
For the New Year’s greetings, I am happy and proud to address a Turkish colleague, Mehmet Altan, imprisoned in Turkey. I indeed accepted, with joy, to be his godfather. At 64, this professor of economics at Istanbul University must answer for “an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order” and “an attempt to overthrow the government”. Partisan of a European Turkey, he regularly intervened in the media, including those of the Gülen brotherhood that the government accuses of coup attempt. In the eyes of Mehmet Altan, a second Republic is desirable in Turkey to overcome the contradictions born of the Republic from radical Kemalism, now disputed.
It is not for me to make an overall judgment on the evolution of the said Republic of Turkey. But the extravagance of the lawsuit brought to Mehmet Altan speaks for itself. Judge it! He incurs three incompressible sentences of imprisonment for life! The first hearing of this trial will be held on February 12. Rest assured, dear Mehmet Altan, that I will be by your side and that I will disseminate every information about you. I know that you have told your lawyer: “(In prison), it is a narrow life without joy or joy If the rule of law was to return to Turkey one day, I know I will not be considered a suspect for a single second, I am suspect only because I demand democracy. ”
I am also told that you are in combative mode and that your morale is good. I wish you all the best. Finally, I wish you an excellent birthday, if it is possible when you are unjustly deprived of your freedom! Your friends in France think highly of you.
Believe in my full solidarity and sympathy, dear Mehmet Altan.
Jean-Claude Guillebaud, journalist, chronicler
- Marie-Monique Robin, godmother of Meltem Oktay
I am writing to you from my house in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, in the northern suburbs of Paris, where I moved eighteen years ago, with my husband and three daughters, now 20 years old, 23 and 26 years old. I hope that one day you will be able to visit us. I will show you our garden, where I grow an organic vegetable garden with two hives. Every morning, before I get to work, I go for a walk to see where nature is. In this winter, the earth is at rest, waiting for spring, like bees, who sleep warm in the middle of their honey reserves.
When you come, I’ll show you also my office, which is a real den, where books and documents pile up to the ceiling.
I have been a journalist for thirty-three years. I chose this job, to tell the world and support human rights wherever they are flouted or threatened. That’s how I made some 200 TV reports and documentaries and wrote a dozen books. This is my “specialty”: I usually spend two years on a subject of investigation to which I devote a film and a book. One of my most famous surveys is entitled “The World According to Monsanto” (the documentary was broadcast in about fifty countries and the book is translated into twenty-two languages). Over the years, I have developed a special sensitivity for ecological themes, because I am very worried about the future of humanity. Everything indicates that those who lead the world have not taken the measure of the challenges that characterize the 21st century: climate change, the destruction of biodiversity, pollution in all its forms (air, water, food ) and the alarming progression of inequalities. Like the hummingbird, I try to do my part so that our children can continue to live with dignity on our beautiful blue planet that humans are constantly maltreating.
In these first days of 2018, I think of you, hoping wholeheartedly that we can meet soon.
Marie-Monique, documentary maker
- Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, godfather of Kazim Kizil
My dear godson,
Your release has certainly pleased me but I will not be fully relieved by learning your acquittal. Finally rid of this sword of Damocles, you can then calmly resume your camera and focus on this subject that is so important to you: make visible the injustice that grinds the “little people”. You do it with talent, courage and conviction. You know.
Know also that your commitment goes beyond the borders of your country that some would want hermetic, opaque. He is an example for each of us. I wish you a happy new year 2018 filled with wonderful projects. Shoots again and again. Your documentaries will create a more just future.
Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, documentary maker