* ARTICLE 27. – Everyone has the right to study and teach, express, and disseminate science and the arts, and to carry out research in these fields freely.
* ARTICLE 28. – The press is free and shall not be censored.
* ARTICLE 64. – The State shall protect artistic activities and artists. The State shall take the necessary measures to protect, promote and support works of art and artists, and encourage the spread of appreciation for the arts.
SPEAK UP – A platform against silence
SPEAK UP is a platform set up to stand against restrictions to freedom of expression such as censorship, self-censorship, bans, blocking, isolation, defamation, or social lynching that associations and individuals active in cultural life, the arts, or the media are subjected to. It aims to empower everyone in Turkey whose freedom of expression is threatened and who values the right to obtain news and information, the arts, literature, in short, any form of expression, to fight against censorship.
SPEAK UP, through the documents it produces as well as the trainings it provides, shall respond to the need of developing better skills and stronger capacity in journalists, writers, publishers/broadcasters, activists, artists, actors, and their respective organizations to speak up against censorship and self-censorship, to counter arbitrary bans and restrictions, and to fight, by means of legal remedies, the censorship that is predicated upon the law. Furthermore, SPEAK UP shall support civil society in Turkey in developing the necessary competences to uphold and defend its own freedom of expression.
The punishment for not complying with arbitrary bans and not engaging in self-censorship becomes more and more ruthless each passing day. Reporters are fired, editors and important columnists are blacklisted so that they cannot work anymore in the mainstream media, many artistic organizations and artists are put in the line of fire and lynched or sacked for their personal opinions or simply for doing their jobs, with charges levelled against them with the purpose of oppressing them. There are at the moment more than 140 journalists and writers in Turkish prisons who have been detained or convicted for expressing themselves.
All the work we shall carry out by way of advocacy and the exhaustive use of legal rights to raise awareness in the public as well as to revert restrictive laws and practices aim to encourage individuals and their networks to resist censorship and self-censorship on legal grounds.
Aiming to become a platform on which different voices from the arts and the media can come together for freedom of expression and raise their voice together, SPEAK UP shall especially support local artists and journalists around Turkey who live away from big cities and lead their lives isolated and oppressed. The platform aims to have professional and regional diversity and is therefore open to the participation of members of the press, artists, and their respective organizations with different world views and outlooks. The purpose is to respond to the silence throughout the country in a multiplicity of voices and in solidarity.
SPEAK UP is a rights-based organization and defines freedom of expression within broad boundaries as promoted by the case law based on the European Convention of Human Rights.
In addition to its founding members, SPEAK UP is composed of an Advisory and an Executive Board.
The SPEAK UP Platform does not discriminate against any religion, language, race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity and is not for profit and does not make profits.
Apart from Istanbul, the platform also has representation in Diyarbakır and Eskişehir. SPEAK UP takes care to organize its events, trainings, and other activities in cities other than Istanbul too.
How does the SPEAK UP Platform work, what does it do?
The activities of the platform can be divided into five main themes:
Awareness Raising: Raising awareness in the public about the methods and consequences of censorship and self-censorship.
The platform informs the public, through its website and social media, about censorship and self-censorship events, freedom of expression restrictions, and reactions and resistance to these.
Advocacy: Carrying out national-level advocacy activities to put a stop to practices restricting expression. SPEAK UP’s advocacy work, which includes lobbying activities targeting officials in Ankara and elsewhere, shall bring together the experiences of the members of P24 and similar platforms. The mass petition campaigns led by SPEAK UP in its defense of freedom of expression are launched on the website Change.org.
Archiving: Documenting censorship examples and legal processes that have achieved success against censorship on a dedicated website. SPEAK UP website documents examples of various censorship practices, provides an electronic meeting environment for active users of the platform, publishes news and relevant writings, and shares with the public records of censorship practices and possible examples of self-censorship.
Alternative: Creating alternatives to make arbitrarily censored works available to the public. The platform also enables the necessary arrangements to be made, to the extent that it is legally and technically possible, to publish blocked columns, stage banned plays, and publish censored books. Our aim in doing so is to force the censoring persons or authorities to explain their actions, to stand with those that have been subjected to censorship or pushed into self-censorship, and to open up alternative channels for expression to demonstrate that censorship does not work.
Action: Mobilizing legal procedures against censorship attempts, supporting those who avail themselves of legal remedies to fight censorship, and promoting the establishment of anti-censorship committees within local bar associations. The legal unit of the SPEAK UP Platform follows the court processes of the cases with the purpose of recording the case law and helping lift restrictions. Furthermore, SPEAK UP applies to and works with the bar associations in different provinces to set up the freedom of expression committees that would act together with local civil society organizations and artistic associations.
Having started its activities on 1 September 2016, the anti-censorship and anti-self-censorship platform SPEAK UP was supported in its first 15 months by the MATRA programme, one of the bilateral cooperation programmes provided by the Government of the Netherlands. From 1 December 2017 to 30 November 2019, SPEAK UP continued its activities under the co-direction of the P24 and Article 19 associations, with the support provided by the “Programme for Support to Civil Society Networks and Platforms in Turkey” of the European Commission. SPEAK UP continued to operate through the project “Stronger Voices against Censorship and Self-Censorship” with the grant it received on 15 December 2019 within the scope of the Hrant Dink Foundation Civil Society Empowerment Programme. This project ended on June 15, 2022.