August 19, 2016
International publishers are “deeply concerned” over closure of Turkish publishing houses
by Jessica Yung
Earlier this month, we reported on a media shutdown in Turkey following the country’s failed military coup, which, according to a report from PEN International, resulted in the forced closure of 132 media organizations — including twenty-nine Turkish publishing companies. More than two weeks later, these publishers remain closed.
In reaction to what is clearly a step backwards in Turkey’s dubious-at-best free speech record, the PEN International Publishers Circle — which defines itself as an organization of publishers who “believe that literature and freedom of expression are at the heart of a strong, vibrant society” — has begun circulating a petition, calling attention to the “irreparable financial and moral losses” described by the Turkish Publishers Association and urging the government “not to use the state of emergency to restrict lawful freedom of expression.” Among the signatories are Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle, Hachette Livre CEO Arnaud Nourry, and Simon & Schuster president Carolyn K. Reidy.
Besides Reidy, Nourry, and Dohle, Katherine Cowdrey of The Bookseller reports that the petition has so far also been signed by a range publishers from around the world, including representatives of HarperCollins Canada, Bonnier Books in the UK, Natur & Kultur in Sweden, CH Beck in Germany, Cappelen Damm in Norway, and De Geus and World Editions, both in the Netherlands.
Nourry told The Bookseller:
What could president Erdoğan possibly be afraid of? Books? Opinions? Contrary opinions? Does Erdoğan believe authors, let alone publishers, played a role in the failed coup? Or is he seizing on an opportunity to clamp down on what is left of freedom of expression in his country? Whatever the motivation, Turkey must at once rescind its gag order imposed on publishers if it still wants to be considered a democracy.
The petition went live on the PEN International site only a day before PEN was to be one of ten organizations awarded the Turkish Journalists’ Association’s (TGC) Press Freedom Prize on the evening of Thursday, August 18. In the midst of one of the largest threats to press freedom Turkey has seen in recent years, the TGC has awarded nine international organizations, including PEN, “for the unique solidarity unparalleled in the past… for its efforts to bring to international platforms the violation of rights and for instilling in their Turkish colleagues the feeling that they are not alone.”
PEN International is still collecting signatures from publishing houses across the globe, and will continue to do so until the end of the day on Tuesday, August 23. If you are a publisher and would like to sign, contact PEN International’s Literature and Partnerships Manager, James Tennant, at [email protected].
Jessica Yung is an intern at Melville House.