Since the COVID19 outbreak and the spread of the pandemic, various aspects concerning the preparedness of public health systems and the management of the crisis by governments of many countries have been placed under scrutiny. Following a decade of austerity policies, commercialization and privatization, impoverished public health systems have proved incapable of providing trustworthy public health policies, prompt and reliable data, efficient epidemiological surveillance, proper equipment and sufficient staff, with often disastrous consequences for public health. In addition to these failings, extreme right-wing governments are increasingly demonstrating hostility to public health authorities [e.g. CDC, WHO] with prominent examples being the US, Brazil and Turkey. The persecution of critical individuals by the Turkish authorities manifests a particularly disturbing phenomenon.
Responding to questions forwarded by the website enBursa.com on 21 April 2020, Prof. Kayıhan Pala, a public health expert and member of the COVID-19 Monitoring Board of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), shared his knowledge, opinions and suggestions along with some criticisms, including concealment of information concerning the state of the epidemic in Bursa province, placing limitations on the sharing of data, lack of transparency in combat efforts, shortage of testing centers; reluctance to authorize the Faculty of Medicine of Uludağ University to provide tests; and refusal to supply water, in this sensitive period, free of charge or at a reduced price.
Rather than endorsing and promoting responsible social policies, the Turkish authorities are persecuting Prof. Kayıhan Pala, who only fulfilled his social and professional duty.
We, the International Association of Health Policy in EUROPE [IAHPE], call for the Turkish authorities to immediately drop all actions against Prof. Kayıhan Pala. We also call on the international scientific community to actively demonstrate their solidarity with him as well as with other individuals persecuted for demonstrating social responsibility. Academic freedom, transparency and accountability must be assured at all times, and certainly during a pandemic.