The Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN), which represents 108 alternative newsmedia organizations throughout North America reaching more than 38 million people in print, on the web and on mobile devices, stands in solidarity with the 17 journalists from the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet. On July 24, 2017, a criminal trial commenced against these journalists, who face 43 years in prison on charges of being accomplices to terrorism. These charges should be dropped immediately.
“Every advanced nation has an open and free press, where journalists can pursue their profession without fear of retribution, personal injury or unwarranted criminal charges. AAN is committed to protecting freedom of speech of all reporters, print or broadcast, alt-weekly or daily, United States or elsewhere; a threat to any journalist anywhere affects us all,” said Bradley Zeve, AAN Free Speech Committee Chair and the Founder & CEO of the Monterey County Weekly. “The increase in physical threats and arrest of journalists in the United States in recent months has only made us more aware that this treatment of reporters is the norm many other countries. It’s a topic we are examining at our Annual Convention being held in Washington, D.C. this week in an attempt to spotlight the dangers these overt forms of censorship pose not just to journalists but the public at large.”
Cumhuriyet has been dogged in its coverage of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It has also been unsparing in its critical commentary about the President’s increasingly authoritarian tactics, which include singling out journalists for harassment and arrest. The nation currently ranks 155th out of 180 countries worldwide on a World Press Freedom Index issued by the non-profit Reporters Without Borders. The 17 currently on trial – 11 of whom are currently being detained – could join more than 100 Turkish journalists already in prison.
“While AAN members tend to focus on local coverage, we cannot ignore such an egregious violation of press freedom,” said AAN Immediate Past President Blair Barna, the Advertising Director & Co-Owner of the Charleston City Paper. “While we generally concentrate our advocacy on domestic threats to press freedom, especially those which will have a disproportionate impact on our members’ abilities to serve our communities, this trial, coinciding as it does with our Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., offers an unique opportunity to make a unified statement that we hope will resonate with our leaders in Washington and the authorities in Turkey.”
AAN members expressed their concern for their foreign counterparts during the annual “Free Speech Keynote” held at the organization’s Annual Convention held in Washington, D.C. from July 27-29. AAN Members are also being asked to formally sign a Petition in Support of these reporters being circulated by Reporters Without Borders, who are more than halfway to their goal of 10,000 signatories in support of the Cumhuriyet journalists.