(NEW YORK)— PEN America today joined PEN International in calling on Turkish authorities to immediately release journalist, writer, and PEN Türkiye member Merdan Yanardağ, who was detained on June 26 and charged under anti-terrorism laws after criticizing the government. PEN America called for his immediate release.

“PEN America stands in solidarity with Merdan Yanardağ and calls on Turkish authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally. Journalists and writers should be free to work and express themselves without fear of retaliation. Airing an opinion critical of the government is not tantamount to terrorism, and the Turkish government must understand this and release Yanardağ,” said Justin Shilad, Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy lead at PEN America.

Yanardağ is editor-in-chief of TELE1, a news organization that has been repeatedly fined by Turkish authorities for critical remarks.

Counterterrorism officers detained Yanardağ on June 26, and he was was charged the next day with “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “praising crime and criminals.” The charges stem from remarks he made while hosting a program on TELE1 criticizing the solitary confinement of imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. Yanardağ later said that his criticism of Öcalan’s prison conditions was not meant to imply support for him or his agenda.

Last month, PEN America joined PEN International and other PEN centers and rights organizations expressed concern over the state of human rights and press freedom in Türkiye following elections in May, and PEN America also raised concerns over free expression ahead of the runoff round of elections.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057