ECPMF condemns arrest of media freedom activists in Turkey

by Michelle Trimborn
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom strongly condemns the arrests of journalists and human rights defenders in Turkey today, 20 June.
Ahmet Nesin (author and journalist), Şebnem Korur Fincancı (President of the Turkey Human Rights Foundation TİHV and Erol Önderoğlu (journalist and media freedom activist) have been taken in pre-trial detention on the grounds of terror propaganda.

Erol Önderoğlu Erol Önderoğlu, journalist and media freedom activist from Turkey (Photo: privat)

The three are currently investigated as they served as temporary Editors-in-Chief for the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, which – according to the Turkish legal authorities – justifies the charges of “propaganda for a terrorists’ organisation”. Their engagement as interim editors in chief was part of the “Editor-in-Chief on Watch”-campaign. Through this, different journalists or press freedom activists took over editorial shifts to show solidarity with the Kurdish newspaper and its staff which is constantly facing investigations and other oppressions.

We are shocked by these developments and express our solidarity with the activists who have been arrested and investigated. Where standing up for freedom of expression is considered a criminal act of terrorism, we must question the functioning of democratic structures and Turkey’s promised commitment to safeguard human rights. We call upon the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against our colleagues and to release them immediately”

say Jane Whyatt, Project Manager of the ECPMF.

ECPMF worked closely together with Erol Önderğlu, who is the Turkish representative of Reporters without Borders and also works for the independent news agency Bianet. Today’s arrests are only another case in a long list of press freedom violations which happen in Turkey on a daily basis.  Even though only three persons have been arrested today, more than 30 persons who took part in the campaign to support Özgür Gündem are currently investigated.