October 9, 2018 - Updated on October 10, 2018
RSF also appeals for as much support as possible for the next hearing, scheduled for 28 January, at which the prosecution is finally expected to present its summing-up and announce the sentences it wants the court to impose.
Attended by two of the three defendants, RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı, today’s hearing was adjourned after just five minutes on the grounds that the court needs to examine the written statement sent by the third defendant, Ahmet Nesin, who has fled the country.
All three are facing up to 14 years in prison on charges of “propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “condoning crime” and “inciting crime” for taking part in a campaign of solidarity with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.
“This threat hanging over our colleagues sends an intimidatory message to Turkey’s journalists and civil society that is unacceptable,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, who attended the hearing. “We call for the broadest possible support for the next hearing, at which the prosecution is to present its summing-up.”
Önderoğlu added: “Our only crime was to defend pluralism and we will continue to do so. We call on the justice system to recognize civil society’s legitimate role and to end these arbitrary prosecutions.”
A leading press freedom defender who has represented RSF in Turkey since 1996, Önderoğlu and his two fellow defendants have been on trial since November 2016 for their role in a campaign to defend media pluralism.
In all, around 40 people have been or are being prosecuted for taking part in the campaign, in which they symbolically took turns at being Özgür Gündem’s “editor for a day” in mid-2016 because it had been the victim of judicial persecution. It ended up being forcibly closed in August 2016.
Özgür Gündem’s successor, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, was itself placed under judicial control in March of this year. Önderoğlu and his two co-defendants are the only participants to have been arrested in connection with this campaign. They spent ten days in provisional detention in June 2016.
Representatives of PEN International and Norwegian PEN and diplomats from France, Luxembourg, Norway and the United Kingdom also attended today’s hearing at a court in the Istanbul district of Çağlayan.
Eleven other journalists, including Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, İhsan Çaralan and Fehim Işık, are due to appear in court tomorrow in Istanbul for taking part in the same solidarity campaign.
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.
21 March 2017:
12 January 2017:
20 June 2016:
Reporters Without Borders representative, two others jailed in Turkey
New York, June 20, 2016--Authorities should immediately release and drop all charges against two human rights defenders and a journalist arrested in Istanbul, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. A court in Istanbul today ordered Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative of the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and two other people arrested on terrorism charges in connection with articles in embattled newspaper Özgür Gündem.
Istanbul's Second Criminal Court of Peace ordered Önderoğlu's arrest, alongside that of journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic and a president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, on charges of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] group," according to press accounts. RSF said Önderoğlu was charged in connection with the newspaper's May 18 coverage of fighting between ethnic-Kurdish youth and security forces. The three are among 44 journalists and activists who have served as co-editor of the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper for a day to protest authorities' repeated judicial harassment of the newspaper and its staff. Önderoğlu's, Nesin, and Fincancı are in custody pending trial. A CPJ correspondent was at the courthouse.
"Erol Önderoğlu's only 'crime' was showing solidarity with a newspaper whose staff has been subject to a relentless campaign of legal harassment," said CPJ's Europe and Central Asia senior research associate, Muzaffar Suleymanov. "We call on Turkey to release Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin, and Şebnem Korur Fincancı immediately, and to drop charges against all those prosecuted for participating in the campaign or for their work at the newspaper."
Prosecutors regularly charge Özgür Gündem's staff with making propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization, and related charges for the newspaper's coverage of fighting between ethnic-Kurds and security forces in Turkey's southeast. Since May 3, 2016, World Press Freedom Day, 44 Turkish journalists and activists have taken turns symbolically acting as co-editor of the newspaper as a show of solidarity, according to press reports. To date, prosecutors have opened criminal investigations into at least 37 participants in the campaign.
"Jailing a world-renowned journalist and human rights defender such as Erol sends a very powerful signal of intimidation to the entire profession in Turkey. It's a new, unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey," Johann Bihr, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at RSF, told CPJ.
Prosecutors interrogated four other people today for acting as guest editors of Özgür Gündem, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported. Cengiz Boysoy, İhsan Eliaçık, Beyza Üstün, and Kemal Can, a contributor to the opposition Cumhuriyetnewspaper, were also questioned on suspicion of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," according to Evrensel.
Istanbul's 14th Court of Serious Crimes is scheduled to try journalist and author Ertuğrul Mavioğlu on September 29, on charges arising from his having acted as the co-editor of Özgür Gündem's May 10, 2016, edition, Mavioğlu told CPJ.
According to the indictment, which the journalist shared with CPJ, Mavioğlu and Özgür Gündem News Editor İnan Kızılkaya will stand trial on charges of "openly provoking [the people] to commit crimes," "praising a crime and a criminal," and "making propaganda for a terrorist organization."
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