A letter from the editor, Steven Hoffman
Of all the liberties we in the Western world are fortunate to possess, freedom of the press is one of the easiest to take for granted. I was raised in the United States, where, despite its foibles and falters, independent journalism has been a keystone of our national ethos and legal system from the country’s foundation. Poland’s history, of course, is more checkered—the days of bibuła, underground newspapers suppressed by the communist regime, are well within living memory, and even now the current government is working to erode the objectivity of state-owned media outlets and the impede the funding of independent news companies.
Nevertheless, the fact that you are reading these words is proof what we continue to enjoy a high degree of freedom for journalists to reach an audience without fear of reprisal or repression. With this power comes a responsibility to defend these principles, and to oppose encroachment on press freedom as it creeps darkly from time to time across less fortunate places in the world.
The most recent example is Turkey. Following the apparent coup-d’état attempt against the increasingly dictatorial regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July, the Turkish government has responded with crackdowns on its enemies both real and imagined, shuttering dozens of news outlets and purging or arresting thousands in the public, education, and media sectors.
One victim of this disturbing wave of reprisals is Aslı Erdoğan (no relation to the president). A prize-winning author, human rights activist, journalist, and former particle physicist at CERN, Ms. Erdoğan took up residence in Krakow in 2015 via sponsorship by the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). I personally had the fortune to attend a thoughtful and frank meeting with her organized by the Krakow Festival Office, where she discussed her creative work as well as the violence, professional persecution, and exile she had already experienced because of her humanitarian reporting.
Ms. Erdoğan later returned to her native Turkey, where last month (along with two dozen of her colleagues) she was detained in a police raid on the Istanbul offices of Özgür Gündem, a newspaper supporting the country’s Kurdish minority, on blatantly trumped-up terrorism charges. Now, The Guardian reports through her lawyer that she sleeps in a urine-stained prison bed without access to the nutrition and medication she requires for her diabetes and asthma.
Her arrest and treatment has been criticized by renowned writers’ NGO PEN International and ICORN. Locally, a petition to Turkish Ambassador to Poland Yusuf Ziya Özcan has been organized by the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature Team, the Krakow Festival Office, and the Villa Decius Association demanding Ms. Erdoğan’s immediate release.
The editorial staff of The Krakow Post add our voices of support to this cause and petition. If you are interested and would also like to get involved in promoting press freedom worldwide through the freedom of Aslı Erdoğan, you can find more information at the links below. Together we can do our small part to help ensure that the freedoms we comfortably enjoy are afforded to people around the world and respected by their governments.