By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Einarsson: ‘Commitment to the Freedom to Publish’In another issue related to the International Publishers Association (IPA) Prix Voltaire, the world publishers association’s Freedom to Publish lead has revealed that the 2008 Voltaire winner, Turkish publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, is the subject of an extradition request by the Recep Tayyip Erdogan government.
The news is tied to the effort to provide official invitations to Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
As you may know, the negotiations have involved NATO member Turkey. And, as Thomas Grove and Daniel Michaels write at the Wall Street Journal write, “NATO’s political agreement itself followed a three-way deal struck last Tuesday among Turkey, Sweden, and Finland about the two countries’ accession after previous objections regarding their membership from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
While the deal made on June 28 put the Swedish and Finnish bids for membership on a firmer footing, the IPA is pointing to the state-run Turkish news agency Anadolu based in Ankara, which refers in an article from May 19 to Sweden “protecting terrorists” and lists publisher Zarakolu among those alleged terrorists.
It appears, then, that Ankara has at some point made an effort to involve the publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, along with others, in extradition attempts as part of the recent dealmaking to enable Finland and Sweden to take their first steps toward NATO membership, a process accelerated, of course, by the ongoing, unprovoked warfare directed by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine.
In a statement today, IPA Freedom to Publish committee chair Kristenn Einarsson is quoted, saying, “Ragıp Zarakolu is a Turkish publisher with a longstanding commitment to the freedom to publish.
“That commitment saw him imprisoned, his publishing house threatened with closure, his exile to Sweden and continued harassment through the abuse of the Interpol Red Notice system.
“We fully expect Ragıp’s freedom, in Sweden, to be safeguarded and not used as pawn in international diplomacy.”
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, we covered some of the harassment Zarakolu has encountered—and Einarsson’s objection to it—in 2018.
Zarakolu: In Sweden Since 2012
IPA’s offices in Geneva today provide this background on Zarakolu, a Turkish publisher born in 1948.
“Since starting his publishing house Belge with his wife Ayse Nur in 1977, he has been subjected to harassment from the Turkish authorities.
“Zarakolu refused to abandon his campaign for freedom of thought, striving ‘for an attitude of respect for different thoughts and cultures to become widespread in Turkey.’
“Over the years, the charges brought by the Turkish authorities against Ragıp Zarakolu and his wife resulted in imprisonment, confiscation of his pension, confiscation and destruction of books, and the imposition of heavy fines, endangering the survival of the Belge publishing house.
“In October 2011, Zarakolu, along with his son Deniz, was arrested and charged with ‘leadership of an armed organization’ and ‘leadership of a terrorist organization’ under the Turkish penal code and the country’s ‘Anti-Terror Law’ as part of a crackdown against publishers, writers, and journalists who were seen to be affiliated to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
“Zarakolu sought exile in Sweden after being released while pending trial. The two judges who authorized his release were arrested and replaced with new judges who issued a warrant to take his statement.”
It’s with the protective support of ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network, that Zarakolu has found safe haven in Sweden.
An article by Ayça Söylemez in the journalists’ rights newsletter English Bianet on September 15, 2020, noted that the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that Zarakolu’s imprisonment violated his right to liberty and freedom of expression. Turkey was ordered to compensate Zarakolu €,5600 in non-pecuniary damages (US$6,613).
In March 2012 the Assyrian Culture Centre in Stockholm granted the Assyrian Cultural Award to Ragıp Zarakolu, then in prison, for being an advocate for human and minority rights in Turkey and Europe.
This is Publishing Perspectives’ 125th awards-related report produced in the 126 publication days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.
More from Publishing Perspectives on freedom of expression is here and more on the freedom to publish is here. More on the Prix Voltaire is here, more on international publishing and book awards programs is here, and more from us on the International Publishers Association is here. More on the work of Kristenn Einarsson is here.
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