The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned Turkey’s arrest of two prominent journalists and an academic, including the local representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on accusations that they supported terrorism by standing in solidarity with a pro-Kurdish newspaper.
A judge in Istanbul ordered the arrests of RSF representative Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı for allegedly making propaganda on behalf of an illegal organisation by agreeing to serve as a symbolic “co-editor in chief” of daily Özgür Gündem for one day, respectively, as part of a campaign to support press freedom that began on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
Turkey’s government accuses the paper of supporting Kurdish militants, with whom it has been locked in a bloody conflict since peace talks between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) aimed at ending the group’s three-decade-long insurgency collapsed in 2015.
Önderoğlu, Nesin and Fincancı reportedly had been summoned to appear before prosecutors in connection with the case against them. After giving statements to prosecutors, they were brought immediately before a judge, where they were ordered arrested and taken into custody.
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis today said that the case against Önderoğlu and the others was “patently absurd and shows the lengths to which the government will go to silence anyone who dissents from or criticises its operations in south-eastern Turkey”.
He continued: “The order to arrest these three human rights defenders – three of the most prominent individuals targeted in this case – appears calculated to send another clear signal to journalists from the highest echelons of power: ‘be silent or pay the consequences’. We call on Turkish authorities to drop this case and free these three immediately. But we also urge Turkey’s foreign partners to wake up to the fact that, in the long term, turning a blind eye to the Turkish government’s human rights violations will bring neither safety nor security.”
According to the Kurdish Firat News Agency, Önderoğlu, Nesin and Fincancı are among some 37 individuals targeted in investigations brought in response to their support for Özgür Gündem.