9th Gathering

Organized by the Initiative for Freedom of Expression, the 9th Istanbul Gathering for Freedom of Expression was held on May 24 and 25 at Bilgi University Santralistanbul Campus. In the meeting...
8 Mart 2016

Organized by the Initiative for Freedom of Expression, the 9th Istanbul Gathering for Freedom of Expression was held on May 24 and 25 at Bilgi University Santralistanbul Campus.

In the meeting supported by Istanbul Bilgi University and Transparency International, as well as the participation of rights organizations working on freedom of expression and press freedom; witnesses of freedom of expression violations spoke, while panels titled “Transparency and Freedom of Expression,” “Transparency in Public,” “The Role of Media and Social Media” and “Soma and Transparency in Turkey” took place.

While the meeting was opened with the speeches of Prof. Dr. Turgut Tarhanlı from Bilgi University, Dr. Karin Deutsch Karlekar from Freedom House, Andrew Gardner from Amnesty International, Nathalie Losekoot from Article 19, Eugene Schoulgin from PEN International and Emma Sinclair Webb from Human Rights Watch; Johann Bihr from Reporters Without Borders, Annie Game from IFEX, Dunja Mijatovic from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), Joel Simon from Committee to Protect Journalists and J.C. Weliamuna from Transparency International participated the meeting with their video messages.

In his opening speech, Andrew Gardner indicated that freedom of expression is not possible in an environment where there is no independent and unbiased judicature, as well as where human rights violators do not stand trial. Gardner also underlined the importance of accountability in terms of human rights. Emma Sinclair Webb from Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, drew attentions to the Law on the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) which passed the Parliament in April; defining the law as “threatening” in terms of transparency and accountability.

Eugene Schoulgin from PEN International described the events happened in Turkey in the past year as frightening and disappointing; while expressing that the international perspective regarding the party in power changed over time. On the first day of the 9th Istanbul Gathering; Prof. Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, Sevi Fırat from Transparency International and Ali Rıza Keleş from Alternative Informatics (Alternatif Bilişim) debated transparency and freedom of expression; while Erol Önderoğlu from Reporters Without Borders, Turkish Journalists Association President Turgay Olcayto and journalist Ercan İpekçi debated the role of media and social media in transparency. Furthermore, Prof. Dr. Turgut Tarhanlı, Asst. Prof. Dr. Aziz Çelik from Kocaeli University and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly as well as Contemporary Journalists Association member lawyer Murat Dinçer debated Soma and transparency in Turkey.

In the sessions on the second day of the event, speeches were made by foreign representative. In the first session on Sunday, Norwegian PEN representative William Nygaard, Article 19’s authority Nathalie Losekoot and PEN International representative Eugene Schoulgin indicated that they worry about the signs indicating Turkey is drifting further away from democracy and the values of a transparent society.

In the session facilitated by CNN Türk news anchor Nevşin Mengü, Dr. Karin Deutsch Karlekar clarified the report launched by Freedom House, in which Turkey took place among the “not free category” in terms of press freedom. Karlekar indicated that the general tendency in the world is to control the press with excuses such as national security and interests, and in countries like Turkey and Thailand, restrictions on the internet and social media increase against information spread.

After the speech of Prof. Dr. Noam Chomsky from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who participated to the meeting via teleconference, the meeting concluded with the introduction of the online Museum of Crimes of Thought by Şanar Yurdatapan from the Initiative for Freedom of Expression.

To watch the video of the 9th Istanbul Gathering for Freedom of Expression: