Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for a major international campaign to demand the acquittal of its Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, and two colleagues, who are facing sentences of up to 14 and a half years in prison. The campaign must continue until 15 April, when the court trying them is due to issue its verdict.
Presenting his summing-up todaySIGN THE PETITION in Istanbul in a trial that has dragged on for more than two years, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Önderoğlu and co-defendants Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin on charges of “terrorist propaganda,” “condoning crime” and “inciting crime” although their only “crime” was demonstrating their support for the persecuted Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.
In a show of solidarity RSF attended today’s hearing.
“The sentences requested for our representative and his colleagues are a slap in the face for press freedom,” Deloire said. “We urge the court to end this awful farce by acquitting them. Erol Önderoğlu has dedicated his life to defending persecuted fellow journalists. Jailing him would be an appalling injustice that would send a terrifying signal to the world and Turkish civil society. We appeal to all press freedom defenders to mobilize on their behalf.”
Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin are being tried for taking part in a campaign of solidarity in which they and some 50 other well-known figures symbolically took turns at being Özgür Gündem’s “editor for a day” in mid-2016 because it had been the victim of judicial persecution. The newspaper ended up being forcibly closed in August 2016.
Önderoğlu and his two colleagues were the only ones to be placed in pre-trial detention for their role in the campaign. That was in June 2016, when they were held for ten days before being freed conditionally.
RSF’s representative is being prosecuted over three articles published in Özgür Gündem on 18 May 2016. They covered the power struggles among various branches of the Turkish security forces and operations against members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in southeast Anatolia.
He is the victim of an abuse he has been denouncing for decades – the use of terrorism laws to silence journalists. Turkey’s loosely-worded terrorism legislation is a key component of its repressive arsenal and its partners and international bodies have been pressing for its overhaul for years. No fewer than 51 journalists and media workers were prosecuted on charges of “propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization” or quoting the organization’s communiqués in the last quarter of 2018 alone.
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 now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.