In response to reports that Türkiye is considering a foreign agent registration law similar to ones in Russia, Georgia, and other countries, PEN America issued the following statement:

“The Turkish government’s proposed foreign agent registration law is a giant step in the wrong direction, furthering a global trend of labeling criticism as part of a nefarious foreign plot. At a time when so many journalists and writers in Türkiye are already languishing in prisons, and events such as the 2023 earthquake are used to stifle free speech in the name of countering ‘misinformation,’ this proposed law would undermine free expression and, as a result, significantly weaken civil society. Free speech is a bedrock of a healthy society, facilitating trust and collaboration between people and inspiring them to dream of better futures anchored in basic human rights. Turkish lawmakers should act quickly to remove this law from consideration.” 

The proposed legislation would amend the Turkish penal code to allow authorities to punish “anyone who carries out or orders research on citizens and institutions with the aim of acting against the security or the political, internal or external interests of the state, on the orders or in the strategic interests of a foreign organization or state” with three to seven years imprisonment, according to AFP reporting. Pro-government media outlets have reported that the bill, which will soon be formally introduced in parliament for debate, will expand the definition of espionage to include influencing public opinion.

Turkish civil society activists have warned that the bill tracks closely with other foreign agent” laws in Europe, which are seemingly modeled on Russia’s law, and a controversial bill currently under consideration in Georgia.

For the fifth year in a row, Türkiye ranked among the top ten greatest jailers of writers, according to PEN America’s 2023 Freedom to Write Index.


About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free 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. Learn more at

Contact: Dietlind Lerner [email protected]