Freedom to Publish Awareness Raising and Information Workshop was held in Ankara, HiltonSa Hotel on 27 January 2015. Among 70 participants were the representatives from the Ministries of Justice, EU, Culture and Tourism, Ombudsman, Human Rights Institution, CSO representatives working on human rights and freedom of expression as well as all the publishing stakeholders such as publishers, writers, translators, journalists and librarians.
First key note speaker, Ireneusz Fidos, European Delegation of Turkey Head of Section for Political affairs said, “Fundamental rights have to be fully respected in the spirit of the accession process of Turkey, reflecting the universal values that both the EU and Turkey have subscribed to in their partnership.” Expressing the fourth judicial reform package as a positive development, and mentioning serious challenges the media faced in Turkey in terms of freedom of media including resignations and dismissals of journalists, widespread self-censorship and frequent website bans, he added their concern about the frequent legislative changes introduced on Internet legislation with insufficient public consultation. Fidos said, “Freedom of expression online and offline is high on our agenda, both inside the EU and in our cooperation worldwide, as a benchmark for modern and forward-looking democratic societies. Each year in its Progress Report the EU looks at the respect for fundamental freedoms in Turkey.” Fidos concluded: “Freedom to publish and freedom of expression are fundamental rights. A democratic society, where decision-makers are held accountable based on timely and accessible information, is impossible without the freedom of expression, an essential tool for public oversight.”
Second speaker was Ege Erkoçak, the Ministry of the European Union, Head of Directorate for Political Affairs. Erkoçak focused on the developments in the area of freedom to publish in Turkey, defining the frozening of the 23rd and 24th Chapters issuing freedom of expression and human rights as a “political blokage”.
Last guest speaker, José Borghino, Policy Director of International Publishers Association attracted attention to the new global problems in this area, exemplifying Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Borghino said: “If anyone had been living under the illusion that defending the freedom to publish in developed countries was merely a theoretical or abstract notion, then the horrific events of 7 January in Paris would have brought home how vulnerable any society actually is and how easily freedoms can be lost.” Telling that publishers in Turkey have faced various difficulties in recent years mentioned publisher and translator Deniz Zarakolu’s long lasting arrest and Sel Publishing’s “obscenity” case for the Appollinaire book they published.
Fikret İlkiz, an expert lawyer on communication law and publisher Tuğrul Paşaoğlu also made speechs reflecting the freedom to publish problems from lawyers’ and publishes’ perspectives. After the speeches open discussion session was held.