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Gezi Park – One year on, freedom of expression
remains severely restricted
One year on from the sit-in in Gezi Park that sparked demonstrations across 80 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, English PEN and PEN International are continuing to call on the Turkish authorities to address the human rights violations that took place.
PEN warmly welcome the recent releases of numerous writers and journalists who were detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression, in particular that of human rights lawyer and writer Muharrem Erbey who was finally released from prison pending trial on 12 April having spent four and a half years in pre-trial detention. Nevertheless the overall human rights situation in Turkey has continued to deteriorate over the last 12 months. PEN remains seriously concerned about the increasingly poor state of freedom of expression in the country, in particular the government’s attempts to clamp down on legitimate online activity.
Maureen Freely, President of English Pen: ‘Over the past year, we have seen Turkey’s ruling party taking extreme measures to censor the social and mainstream media, intimidate dissenters, and impede democratic debate, while also using both new and old media to convince its supporters that all those who criticise or challenge its policies are sponsored by international lobbies aiming to destroy the Turkish state.’
Latest from PEN in Books in Prison Campaign
Wednesday 23 April 2014
Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip and British theatre producer David Cecil are amongst former prisoners and detainees to have written pieces to support English PEN and the Howard League for Penal Reform’s campaign to lift restrictions on sending books to prisoners in the UK, on the occasion of World Book Night.
In order to draw attention to the current situation for prisoners in the UK, English PEN and the Howard League for Penal Reform invited some of the many cases PEN has supported to write about the value of reading and receiving books in prison.
A full list of the writers is available here: Books in Prison
The Books for Prisoners campaign is in protest at restrictions on sending books to prisoners in the UK. These regulations were introduced by the Ministry of Justice in November 2013 as part of a crackdown on what ministers have described as prisoners’ ‘perks and privileges’.
English PEN and the Howard League are still waiting for a response to a letter to Secretary of State for Justice, the Right Honourable Chris Grayling, requesting a meeting, which was signed by Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Carol Ann Duffy, Mark Haddon, Maureen Freely and Frances Crook. The charity has once again pledged to send books to writers at risk – one of the oldest and most tangible ways English PEN shows it support to brave colleagues around the world.
Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, said: ‘These very moving testimonies are further evidence that books are a lifeline. The response we have had from around the world demonstrates the significant difference that literature can make for prisoners. We’re disappointed that the government has as yet failed to respond to our request for a meeting to address our concerns.’
Defamation Bill in 2013
Thursday 25 April 2013
The Defamation Bill has been agreed by Parliament and is now just waiting for Royal Assent before becoming an Act of Parliament. Lots of reaction from some of the Libel Reform Campaign supporters.
Tuesday 23 April 2013
Lords agree hurdle for corporations in Defamation Bill
The House of Lords has voted on amendments to the Defamation Bill that would place restrictions on the way companies and other ‘non-natural persons’ use the libel law. A government amendment requiring companies to demonstrate actual or likely serious financial loss when they sue received cross-party support.
The House voted to reject an amendment that would have barred corporations from suing in relation to their delivery of contracted public services. The Defamation Bill now goes to the House of Commons for agreement of amendments and may be given Royal Assent by this week.
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN said: ‘We welcome the inclusion of provisions to ensure that companies show financial loss when they sue. This, together with crucial clauses on the public interest, peer reviewed publications, jurisdiction, and serious harm, mean that there is a wider space for free expression. We hope more people, whether they are investigative journalists, bloggers or NGOs, will be emboldened to speak truth to power as a result.
‘It is, however, a great disappointment that the House of Lords did not go further in limiting companies’ ability to sue. As more public services are delivered by private contractors, more areas of public life may now escape scrutiny. It is frustrating that we must now wait for case law to develop in this area.’
The Libel Reform Campaign is a coalition of three charities: Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science. It was formed in 2010 to campaign for reform of the libel laws to protect free speech and open debate. 60,000 people and more than 100 organisations support the campaign.