Dozens of notable authors have signed a joint letter from PEN International and English PEN that urges Turkey to reverse its nationwide ban on Twitter. The social media site was blocked last week after audio recordings suggesting corruption among the country's officials were leaked. Earlier in March, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had stated that he would not "leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook," and on Thursday Turkish media outlets reported that YouTube had also been blocked in the country as well.
The letter, which champions "the freedom of words," was signed by illustrious writers from Turkey and around the world, including Orhan Pamuk, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Atwood and Karl Ove Knausgård, among others.
The open letter begins:
We, the signatories named below, are writers from around the world who love, live and breathe words. We are united in our belief that freedom of expression is a universal and fundamental human right. We hereby express our grave concern with regard to “the freedom of words” in Turkey today.
As human beings we connect both within and across borders through words, written and spoken. A free exchange of ideas is essential for democracy, as well as for creativity, empathy and tolerance. As shown in a recent PEN report on last year’s protests,Turkey has a wide range of free expression issues, from criminal defamation to self-censorship within the mainstream media and from police violence against journalists to a narrowing sphere for freedom of expression on the internet.
Turkey ranks 154th among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. To this day, translators, editors, publishers, poets and writers face criminal proceedings and even imprisonment for legitimate expression under a variety of legislative fetters.
The letter goes on to urge Turkish authorities "to remember that this beautiful country will be stronger and happier when, and if, it appreciates pluralism, diversity and the freedom of words."