Turkey Attempts to Censor Acclaimed Pianist

Photo Credit: Serdar Saygı

The decision today by a Turkish Court to sentence acclaimed pianist Fazil Say to a ten-month suspended jail sentence for ‘insulting religion’ is further evidence of the hostile climate for those attempting to speak out on politically sensitive topics. Freedom House calls on authorities to drop all charges against Say and to cease its efforts to censor citizens.

According to court documents, Say ‘insulted Islam’ when he shared two different Tweets: one commenting on a poem written by Omar Khayyam, which joked about the ‘Islamic vision of the afterlife,’ and another Tweet that made a joke about a call to prayer at a mosque. While he will not have to serve the jail sentence in this instance, if convicted again for the same offense within the next five years he will have to serve the sentence. Say, who has publicly declared that he is an atheist, has been critical of the government in the past.

Turkey is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom of the Press 2012, and Freedom on the Net 2012. While the right to free expression is guaranteed in the constitution, the climate for free expression and free speech has grown increasingly hostile in recent years with intellectuals, artists and journalists facing arrest and criminal charges for expressing their opinions. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for criminalizing ‘insults to Islam’ and recently voiced support for anti-blasphemy laws that would further restrict freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Learn More:

Freedom in the World 2012: Turkey

Freedom of the Press 2012: Turkey

Freedom on the Net 2012: Turkey

Letter: Obama Must Speak Out on Hostile Climate for Free Speech in Turkey

Testimony: Press Freedom and Rule of Law in Turkey

Blog: Hypocrisy Goes Global in the Blasphemy Law Campaign

Blog: The Trouble with Blasphemy Laws