Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for as much pressure as possible on the Turkish authorities to abandon their prosecution of RSF’s Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, whose trial is due to resume in Istanbul on 21 March.
RSF is sending an international delegation to Istanbul to attend the resumption of the trial of Önderoğlu and his two fellow defendants – Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of the Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), and the writer Ahmet Nesin.
They are facing possible imprisonment for taking part in a campaign of solidarity with the Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem.
Representatives of RSF’s international secretariat and German section plan to observe the hearing at a courthouse in the Istanbul suburb of Çağlayan, which is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. on 21 March.
RSF wants its presence to be seen as a show of support for Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin, for all the other participants in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign, and for Turkey’s journalists in general, who are being subjected to unprecedented levels of harassment.
“Those who had the courage to campaign in defence of pluralism in Turkey deserved to be rewarded, not prosecuted,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The frightening number of media outlets that have been shut down in recent months has confirmed the importance of their fight.
“We again call for the withdrawal of the absurd charges against Erol Önderoğlu and his colleagues. The restoration of pluralism in Turkey is all the more urgent given the imminence of a referendum that is crucial for the country’s future.”
Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin are accused of “terrorist propaganda” because of their participation in a campaign from May to August 2016 in support of pluralism in which 56 well-known figures took turns acting as the editors of Özgür Gündem, a newspaper that had been persecuted by the justice system.
Arrested on 20 June, Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin remained in pre-trial detention until they were freed conditionally ten days later, following a major international campaign for their release. The trial began on 8 November.
Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The already disturbing media situation in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency declared in the wake of last July’s failed coup.
Özgür Gündem’s offices were placed under seal in August and it was dissolved by decree on 29 October. A total of 176 other media outlets have been shut down in the same way and more than 100 journalists are currently detained and denied any effective legal recourse.
At least 775 press cards have been rescinded and the passports of hundreds of journalists have been withdrawn without any form of judicial proceedings. Censorship of the Internet and social networks has reached unparalleled levels.
Democratic debate has been drastically curtailed by these restrictions as Turks prepare to vote in a referendum on 16 April on constitutional amendments that, according to the Council of Europe, would result in a “dangerous step backwards” to a “one-person regime.”
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