Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is stunned to learn that an Istanbul court today ordered the pre-trial detention of its Turkey representative, Erol Önderoglu, and two other journalists on a terrorism charge. RSF reiterates its unconditional support for its representative and calls on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges and release them.
“This is another dark day for media freedom in Turkey,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Erol Önderoglu has fought tirelessly to defend persecuted journalists for the past 20 years. He is a leader in this field because of his honesty and integrity, which are recognised the world over. It says a lot about the decline in media freedom in Turkey that he is now also being targeted.”
Önderoglu and his two colleagues, Ahmet Nesin and Sebnem Korur Fincanci, are charged with “terrorist propaganda” for taking part in a campaign of solidarity with the Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem.
RSF issued the following press release earlier today:
The representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Turkey, Erol Önderoglu, and two other Turkish intellectuals are facing the possibility of being placed in pre-trial detention today for participating in a campaign in support of Kurdish media outlets.
RSF reiterates its unconditional support for its representative and calls on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges in this case.
For decades, RSF has been condemning Turkey’s abuse of its terrorism laws to crack down on independent journalism, and Önderoglu has of late been participating in a campaign of solidarity with the Kurdish dailyÖzgür Gündem, a repeated victim of this practice.
He and a number of other journalists, intellectuals and human rights defenders have been taking turns to act symbolically as the newspaper’s editor. As a result, they are now being prosecuted on a charge of “terrorist propaganda.”
After being questioned by a prosecutor today, Önderoglu and two colleagues, Ahmet Nesin and Sebnem Korur Fincanci, were referred to an Istanbul judge, who is to decide on the judicial control measures to be applied pending their trial. The prosecutor has requested pre-trial detention.
“Erol Önderoglu is known all over the world as a leading free speech defender in Turkey,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “It is absurd and utterly disgraceful that he is now accused of terrorism, that he is now a victim of the abuses he has always denounced. We reiterate our call for the immediate withdrawal of the proceedings against him and the other participants in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign.”
Önderoglu is being prosecuted on the basis of three articles published by Özgür Gündem on 18 May about power struggles within the various Turkish security forces and about the ongoing operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels in southeastern Anatolia.
RSF’s representative in Turkey since 1996, Önderoglu compiles quarterly reports on freedom of expression in Turkey for the Bianet news website. He is a member of the board of IFEX (the International Freedom of Expression Exchange) and often works for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations.
Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.
The article was originally published by Reporters Without Borders.