A Reporters Without Borders (RSF) delegation flew today to Istanbul to attend the trial of its Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, which resumes tomorrow, and to show support for Turkey’s journalists, the targets of an unprecedented crackdown.
The RSF delegation consists of secretary-general Christophe Deloire, president Eric Chol, board members Jean-Michel Boissier, Jean-Pierre Getti, Paul-Stéphane Manier and Alain Mingam, Austrian section president Rubina Möhring, Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk officer Johann Bihr, and German section representative Jens Uwe-Thomas.
They plan to attend the next hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, in the trial of Önderoğlu and his fellow defendants, writer Ahmet Nesin and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who are all facing possible jail terms on “terrorist propaganda” charges for taking part in a campaign of solidarity with the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.
The newspaper’s editor, İnan Kızılkaya, who has been held since 16 August, is being tried with them.
The delegation will also observe the trial of former Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar and his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, which is also due to resume tomorrow. Dündar and Gül are accused of “assisting a terrorist organization” for revealing details of Turkey’s arms deliveries to Islamist groups in Syria.
During their two-day visit, RSF’s representatives also plan to visit the headquarters of Cumhuriyet, of which 11 employees have been detained since the start of November, and to meet with the families of imprisoned journalists.
“We again call on the authorities to drop the absurd charges against these journalists, whose only crime was to defend media pluralism and do their duty to report the news,” Deloire said.
“Media freedom is in danger of dying in Turkey and the world cannot remain silent! We demand the restoration of pluralism and the release of all journalists who are being held in connection with their work.”
In the campaign of solidarity with Özgür Gündem from May to August, dozens of well-known figures took turns in symbolically acting as the editor of this newspaper, which has been persecuted by the judicial authorities.
Önderoğlu, Nesin and Fincancı, who heads the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), were jailed on 20 June and were freed provisionally ten days later after a major international campaign for their release. Their 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.