‘We are journalists’: Delegation in Turkey to discuss press freedom

Reuters editor-at-large Harry Evans had a question for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Would he be willing to meet with a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute (IPI) when it visited Turkey?

“Are they journalists?” President Erdoğan asked, during a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on September 22.

“Yes, they are all journalists,” Evans answered.

“I would be very pleased to meet with them,” Erdoğan affirmed.

The joint CPJ-IPI delegation to Turkey is now in Istanbul, and we are looking forward to our meeting with the President as well as other senior government officials including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ, and President of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç. The meetings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Ankara.

And yes, our delegation is made up of journalists including CPJ board chair Sandra Mims Rowe, former editor of the Portland Oregonian; Anne Garrels, who covered wars around the world for NPR; and David Schlesinger, who served as editor-in-chief of Reuters and helped oversee coverage of the war in Iraq. The IPI is chaired by Galina Sidorova, an investigative reporter from Russia, a place where bad things have been known to happen to journalists who ask the wrong questions.

We are here for consultations with our colleagues in the Turkish media, and we have had briefings and newsroom visits in the past two days. As journalists, we do not take sides or play politics. Our sole interest is in ensuring that our Turkish colleagues are able to work freely and without constraint. We stand with those who face harassment, intimidation, or threats as a result of their work.

We believe that journalists should not be jailed for the opinions they express, and we will encourage Turkey to continue to make progress in releasing journalists from prison and reforming the laws under which they have been prosecuted.

As journalists, we believe that societies are enriched by the free circulation of information and ideas. This is what we plan to discuss with President Erdoğan and other officials later this week.