Campaign Overview

The Committee to Protect Journalists sent an emergency mission to Turkey in July 1997 to press for the release of imprisoned Turkish journalists. CPJ Vice Chairman Terry Anderson led the delegation to support Turkish journalists’ growing condemnation of press freedom violations in their country.

CPJ’s delegation, which included board members Peter Arnett of CNN and Josh Friedman of Newsday, CPJ Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna, and executive director William A. Orme, Jr., arrived in Ankara on July 12 for five days of high-level meetings with government and political leaders to expedite the journalists’ release and to push for the reform or repeal of statutes under which they were convicted. The delegation was joined by leaders of the Press Council and the Newspaper Owners Union in Turkey, the International Press Institute, and Reporters Sans Frontières.

The delegation drew much attention and its activities received prominent coverage in both the Turkish and world press. A particularly momentous event was CPJ’s visit to Saray Prison to see imprisoned journalist Ocak Isik Yurtçu, whose case CPJ has championed as emblematic of the plight of all Turkish journalists jailed for articles considered critical of the government’s conflict with Kurdish insurgents. Anderson presented the CPJ International Press Freedom Award to Yurtçu in prison.