Thirteen of them have signed the letter demanding that the foreign ministry make “greater demands of Turkey” to respect press freedom.
The broadcasting and newspaper chiefs argue that their country could do more to support the many journalists who have been jailed since the failed coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July.
Their letter, published in Wednesday morning’s issue of Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest newspaper, is addressed to the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs. The minister, Margot Wallström, is also Sweden’s deputy prime minister.
The letter begins with a reminder that Erdogan struck immediately after the attempted coup on 15 July. It continues:
“Radio stations and TV channels were closed. Newspapers, magazines and publishing houses were silenced. Journalists were detained.
To date, 170 media channels have been closed down and 144 journalists are in prison. Turkey is now, by far, the world’s biggest prison for journalists and is now ranked 151st of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.”
They point out that, in recent weeks, the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Murat Sabuncu, has been arrested, as have several other members of staff. They are accused of “associating with terrorists”.
Days before that raid, 15 newspapers and news agencies were banned in the Kurdish region. The Reporters Without Borders representative in Turkey, Erol Önderoglu, was arrested and is facing trial on terrorist crimes.
Earlier in the year, hundreds of journalists were sacked from their jobs at the Turkish public service company TRT.
The letter welcomes the fact that Wallström intends to raise the problem of Erdogan’s pressures on free expression at the United Nations when Sweden joins the security council next year. But, it says, “more is needed.”
Editors think it “completely incomprehensible” that Sweden’s existing strategy for reform in Turkey does not stress the need for greater independence for the media.
The letter states: “Given the accelerating developments in Turkey, we believe it is essential that the Swedish government’s strategy is rewritten to include ‘freer and more independent media’ as a priority in Turkey.”
They conclude by reminding the minister that Sweden is this year celebrating the 250th anniversary of the world’s oldest freedom of the press legislation. “Sweden has a proud tradition of free and independent journalism.
“We want Sweden and the EU to pursue the same tradition. Therefore, we must make tougher demands on Turkey and thus provide support to journalists, the media and citizens alike.”
The letter (full text here) is signed by:
Casten Almqvist, CEO, TV4 Group; Cilla Benkö, CEO, Swedish Radio; Per-Anders Broberg, CEO, Utgivarna (Swedish Publishers’ Association); Unn Edberg, chair, Swedish Magazine Publishers’ Association; Raoul Grünthal, chair, Swedish Media Publishers’ Association;
Anna Gullberg, editor-in-chief, Gefle Dagblad; Jeanette Gustafsdotter, CEO, Swedish Media Publishers’ Association; Viveka Hansson, programme director, TV4 Group; Jan Helin, programme director, SVT;
Thomas Mattsson, editor-in-chief, Expressen; Hanna Stjärne, CEO, SVT; Christel Tholse Willers, CEO, UR (Swedish Educational Broadcasting Co); Sofia Wadensjö Karén, chair, Utgivarna (Swedish Publishers’ Association).