Turkish President Erdoğan with U.S. President Obama (AA photo)
Last Thursday, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the American Library Association, the Authors Guild and PEN America sent a joint letter to President Obama, urging him to protest the suppression of free speech in Turkey during his meeting this past Sunday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan at the G20 summit in China. (After the meeting, the New York Times wrote that the two discussed who was responsible for the failed coup attempt July 15 and the battle against ISIS, but that President had not brought up the suppression of free speech.)
The letter said that the government crackdown after the coup attempt is "threatening democracy in Turkey" and has involved the shutdown of 29 publishers, 16 TV stations, 23 radio stations, 3 news agencies, 45 newspapers and 15 magazines. The government has also issued arrest warrants for 40 journalists and 47 newspaper employees. "The wholesale suppression of media outlets is having a devastating effect on public debate in Turkey, already weakened by government attacks on the media."
Hit especially hard, the 29 publishing houses have been required "to surrender to the government 'all goods, assets, rights, documents and papers.' There is no appeal from the order."
The letter concluded: "We cannot allow the Turkish government to use the coup as a pretext for the suppression of free speech and other essential liberties. We ask you to urge President Erdoğan to allow the closed media companies to reopen and to desist from further efforts to suppress free speech."