Pelim Unker, the Turkish journalist recently sentenced to thirteen months in prison for reporting on links of a former Turkish prime minister to companies in Malta, has sent a message of solidarity and appreciation to people attending the monthly vigil for Truth and Justice today.

“The threat to press freedom is a major challenge for imperfect democracies like Malta or Turkey, ” Pelim Unker said in her message. “Our countries are similar in this respect. When the rule of law is eroded each passing day, corruption is given the space to grow at the same rate. That is why journalism is under pressure: in Malta and in Turkey.”

Pelim Unker’s message was read out in Valletta today.

“Around 40 journalists have been murdered or have disappeared in Turkey in the past 25 years. Daphne’s killing is the first murder of a journalist in the European Union. But it’s not the last one. 

“People who kill journalists want nothing but to silence them. Sometimes the same objective of silence is achieved by sending journalists to prison. That is my experience. 

“But it is more accurate to say that what they want to silence is the story. They want to cover up the truth.

“People need free journalists. People need to hear reality. Democracy needs journalists.”

Pelim Unker said in her message to the vigil marking 15 months since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia that Turkey is the world’s biggest prison for journalists. “There are more than 140 journalists in Turkey’s prisons now and I face the prospect of joining them.”

“We all need to understand that if one journalist falls silent, the entire society will go deaf. 

“We have to strengthen solidarity and we need to collaborate across borders to be able to resist together the pressure that seeks to crush us. When we stand together, our voice will be stronger. 

“I do believe history will not forgive the liars. One day the facts will win. Truth will win.”

Pelim Unker thanked demonstrators at today’s vigil for their solidarity and support. “Let them be reminded: ‘Journalism is not a crime’,” her message ended.

Pelin Unker reported findings in the Paradise Papers leaks that revealed that two sons of former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had links to five Maltese companies.

She has not yet been incarcerated pending her appeal.