Last month the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a 53-page report on freedom of the press in Turkey. According to the group, the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had 76 journalists in prison as of September 1, 2012 – more, the CPJ reports, than those imprisoned by the regimes governing China ( 27) and Iran (42) combined. The government is also using its authority to intimidate the press in other ways. For example, it brought a tax evasion case against Hürriyet, a newspaper, after it began to report on a German investigation into a charity allegedly funneling money to A. K. Party leaders, imposing a fine of $2.5 billion. The fine was reduced to $600 million only after Hürriyet replaced its editor and the parent company sold a television station and two other newspapers.

Given the Turkish government’s attitude towards journalists, we will not be attending this year’s European Wine Bloggers Conference in Izmir, Turkey.

Palate Press’ emphasis on wine does not allow us to set aside the core principles of good journalism, nor does it absolve us from the moral responsibility to support our journalistic colleagues in their professional mandate to inform and enlighten the public, no matter what the issue. And we view good wine blogging as journalism on a new platform.

We do not intend this as any criticism of the Conference organizers or attendees. Palate Press is enormously fond of the people behind the European Wine Bloggers Conference as well as all its friends in the European wine blogging community. We wish everybody there success and safe travels. We also readily acknowledge that plans for the conference were made long before the report came out or issues were as widely known as they are today. We simply cannot participate in a journalism conference in the nation holding more journalists in jail than any per nation in the world.