After three years of persecution, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representative in Turkey, Erol Önderoğlu, was finally acquitted today, as were his fellow defendants – human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and the writer Ahmet Nesin. But Önderoğlu is not yet off the hook. He faces another trial that is due to start on 7 November.
Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin were accused of “terrorist propaganda,” “justifying crime” and “inciting crime” because, in order to defend media pluralism, each of them symbolically took turns at being the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem’s “editor for a day” in mid-2016. The victim of judicial persecution, this newspaper ended up being forcibly closed in August 2016.
IMGWho is Erol Önderoğlu?Read his portraitIn the second trial due to start on 7 November, Önderoğlu is again accused of “terrorist propaganda” along with 16 other activists for expressing their solidarity with hundreds of university academics prosecuted in connection with a peace petition.
“Erol Onderoglu’s acquittal is an exceptional victory for justice and press freedom in a country where both are being trampled on every day,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Our deep relief is tinged with bitterness because our representative will be on trial again in four months’ time. The way this historic press freedom defender is being harassed is a deep injustice. We therefore urge the Turkish judicial system to demonstrate the same good sense that it showed today and to quickly abandon this new prosecution.”
Önderoğlu added: “I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those who supported us during this trial. This fight for all of our unjustly prosecuted or imprisoned colleagues continues.”
The already worrying situation of Turkey’s media has become critical since an abortive coup in July 2016. Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any effective form of recourse, mass trials are being held and Turkey holds the world record for the number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.