Ahead of the meeting in Varna: Bulgarian Journalists sent Letters to their Turkish Colleagues in Jail

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letters 2The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria (AEJ-Bulgaria) sent letters to journalists jailed in Turkey as a sign of solidarity with them. A huge number of media representatives continue to be detained in Turkey in attempt to silence their critical voice. That is why a few days ahead of the summit between the EU and Turkey in Varna on 26th of March, AEJ-Bulgaria issues 95 symbolic accreditation for jailed journalists. The only way they can know about this is by correspondence via mail – their single connection to the world.
Take a look what we wrote to them:
Dear colleague,
We are Bulgarian journalists and you have been in our thoughts these days. Our country hosts a historic meeting between the European Union and Turkey. We believe that you belong to this meeting together with us and our European colleagues. You have to be there asking questions. Asking politicians how they protect the interest of the society they should serve. That’s why we issued symbolic accreditation on your behalf.
We made a badge with your name to show that although you cannot be present, you will be there. And if anyone thinks they could put journalist behind bars to mute their voice, they are mistaken. Others will speak on their behalf, others will ask the same questions.
Many politicians get annoyed by questions. They often find it difficult to answer. Sometimes they perceive themselves as victims of journalistic terror. But professional journalism is not terrorism. Journalists are not terrorists. On the contrary, the world does not know democracy without free journalism.
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Dear neighbor, Komşu,
We share common past with you. It was a difficult and controversial one, but it’s ours, so we feel each other close. We still remember how three decades ago hundreds of thousands of our compatriots came to your country to seek freedom*. The freedom to call themselves with their birth names. Freedom that was taken from them by the tyrannical regime.
To use the name given by your parents. To be able to freely say who you are and not someone else to determine for you. This is a fundamental human right that only a sinister tyrant can decide to take away.
To call things by their real names is also a basic human right as well as the essence of our profession. Getting in jail because of this is extremely unfair. Not only to you, but to your readers, listeners, viewers. It is unfair to the whole society that journalism is called to serve.
Real names represent freedom. You can call black – black, and you can call white – white, the colorful – colorful, to use your own, not a foreign name. This is called freedom. In other words, as George Orwell writes: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
It is luck to be a journalist and to fight precisely for this right, which everything derives from. Sometimes it is difficult, sometimes it even seems hopeless. But let us think how difficult it was for our compatriots, who left everything behind thirty years ago and went searching for freedom. Freedom to use their own names. They had almost nothing, and they looked weak. The regime had prisons, the regime had a militia, the regime had weapons and it looked invincible. But it was just the opposite. People searching for freedom were the strong althogether. As strong as the strongest man on the planet – Naim Süleymanoğlu*, who was also one of them. And the regime was weak. So weak that its days were numbered.
Today we pronounce their names with gratitude. We also read with reverence your name on the card we printed. We promise to protect it, to give it to you in person, seeing and celebrating the freedom to call things by their true names.
See you soon,
The team of the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria
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*[1] The Revival Process, also known as the Process of Rebirth was the official name of the forceful assimilation of Bulgaria’s Muslim Turkish minority (900,000 people or 10% of the population) to assimilate by changing their Turkish and Arabic names to Bulgarian names and forbidding the exercise of their customs, religion and language. It was enacted between 1984 and 1989 under the communist government of Todor Zhivkov. Those who refused were subjected to persecution, including imprisonment (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
*[2] Bulgarian Turkish world and Olympic Champion in weightlifting, who set a record by lifting 190 kg in the clean and jerk in 1988 Summer Olympics (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)