David Casa has called for the release of Sedef Kabaş, a journalist in Turkey who has been held in custody after reciting a proverb that was seen as an insult to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The European Parliament’s Media Working Group, of which Casa is Co-Chair, issued a statement condemning the arrest.
Quoting the statement, Casa noted that “the episode is symptomatic of an insecurity toward the press from the state, which instead has the duty to protect free speech.”
“The arrest is as shocking as the circumstances around it,” Casa said. “Sedef later tweeted the proverb, and now she is subject to disproportionate measures that are undoubtedly intended to intimidate her.
Casa promised that the European Parliament would continue to be a bulwark for press freedom in Europe, ramping up pressure to support Kabaş and her colleagues.
“It is another dangerous development for press freedom in Turkey which sends a chilling message to other journalists.”
The well-known proverb has been translated as saying “When the ox comes to the palace, he does not become a king. But the palace becomes a barn.”
After posting it as a tweet, police arrested Kabaş at her home at 2am and detained her pending trial.
In an interview on Wednesday, Erdoğan promised that the “offence will not go unpunished.” Later, Kabaş’ twitter account posted a statement alleging that orders for her imprisonment came “from the very top.”
Casa expressed his shock at the circumstances of Sedef’s case. “It is a textbook case of state intimidation.”
The Media Working Group’s statement “emphasise[d] the fundamental right of free speech for the citizens of Turkey, especially journalists, who are constantly under pressure in the course of their duties.
“Societies’ freedom is gauged particularly by the freedoms of its writers.”
More than 35,000 cases have been filed in eight years over insults against the president.
As Co-Chair of the Media Working Group and full member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, David Casa has been a vocal advocate for press freedom in Turkey. In 2019, he campaigned successfully for the Pelin Ünker, a Turkish journalist who faced 13 months in prison for her reporting on the Panama Papers.