National Press Club

As Turkish foreign minister visits, National Press Club and its Journalism Institute call on Turkey to free journalists

March 21, 2017 | By Kathy Kiely | kkiely@press.org

The foreign minister of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, appeared Tuesday, March 21 at the National Press Club for a privately organized event. Access to his speech and subsequent press conference was controlled by the event sponsors.

The National Press Club is proud of our history providing a forum for reporters and newsmakers to meet, and pleased that foreign leaders come through our doors to answer the questions of journalists from across the globe who cover Washington. But on this occasion, we feel compelled to note a glaring irony:

The foreign minister's appearance at our club, a place emblematic of press freedom, comes on the very day that Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkish representative of Reporters Without Borders, appeared in a Turkish court. The short hearing was the latest proceeding in a case that could put him in prison for life. His “crime?” Aiding a Kurdish newspaper. Önderoğlu and two other defendants, Şebnem Korur and Ahmet Nesin, are just three of the scores of journalists now imprisoned in Turkey for the “crime” of journalism.

"Please be reminded that we remain deeply concerned about the poor state of press freedom in Turkey," said National Press Club President Jeff Ballou. "As a matter of fact, we released no less than five statements on the lack of press freedom in Turkey since June of 2016. We continue to call on Turkey to stop jailing, harassing, or otherwise persecuting journalists."

"We welcome Turkish officials to the United States, where journalists are free to ask questions with impunity. We hope that they take advantage of the opportunity today to raise questions about the harassment of our fellow-reporters in Turkey," added Kathy Kiely, the National Press Club Journalism Institute's press freedom fellow. "We hope that the U.S. officials will also take up our call. Turkey receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid, meaning that U.S. taxpayers hard-earned dollars are supporting a regime whose actions against press freedom would be unconstitutional in our own country."

The National Press Club and the National Press Club Journalism Institute stand in solidarity with our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders. #SupportErol and free the rest of the journalists now in jail in Turkey.

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club works to promote freedom of expression and transparency at home and abroad. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a non-profit affiliate, equips news professionals with the skills to innovate, leverages emerging trends, recognizes innovators and mentors the next generation.

Contact: Kathy Kiely, NPC Journalism Institute Press Freedom Fellow (202) 256-4748 or kkiely@press.org