Journalists will not be compliant: Arrested RSF Turkey representative
Journalists in Turkey will persist in not being “compliant,” the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) arrested Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, has vowed in his first message from the prison.
“As a journalist who has been monitoring legal practices for a long time, I do not remember a period in which especially academics for peace [and journalists ]have faced such crackdowns,” Önderoğlu said in a message shared on RSF international’s official Twitter account.
“Embracing our values of freedom will give us more strength,” he said, while expressing gratitude for all colleagues, lawyers and conscientious people who did not abandon him and his two arrested colleagues.
Önderoğlu was arrested on June 20 along with journalist Ahmet Nesin and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) head Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı after supporting a campaign in solidarity with Turkish daily Özgür Gündem, which was started on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
An Istanbul court charged the three with “making terror propaganda” after they served as editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem for one day as part of the daily’s “Editor-in-chief on Duty” campaign.
RSF also launched a petition for the release of Önderoglu.
“Handcuffed and jailed after a closed hearing, Erol Önderoglu is today the victim of the persecutions he always denounced. It’s now our turn to fight for him,” RSF announced, calling on authorities for the immediate release of the three campaigners.
Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, called the arrest of campaigners another dark day for media freedom in the country.
“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 recognized the world over. It says a lot about the decline in media freedom in Turkey that he is now also being targeted,”Bihr said.
A total of 44 prominent journalists and thinkers – including Hasan Cemal, Şeyhmus Diken, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Ayşe Düzkan, Can Dündar and İhsan Eliaçık – served as one-day editors-in-chief during the campaign. Some 37 of them have been investigated so far.
Meanwhile, leading rights group including PEN International and the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Önderoğlu and his two colleagues in a joint statement issued on June 22.
“RSF demands the immediate and unconditional release of its representative and his two colleagues. The organization calls for the withdrawal of all charges against him and other participants of this solidarity campaign,” said the joint oral statement co-sponsored by PEN International, Article 19, International Federation of Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, International Press Institute.
The statement was delivered on behalf of a further 25 NGOs including the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ethical Journalism Network, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Index on Censorship, and Global Editors Network.
DİSK Basın-İş, for whom Düzkan acts as an executive board member, also called for the trio’s immediate release, while demanding rapid changes to the country’s anti-terror law and an end to pre-trial imprisonment for cases of defamation against the president.
Questioning the wisdom of the arrests, DİSK Basın-İş said: “Were the accusations so unique? No. Were they flight risks? No. They went of their own volition to testify, with [Önderoğlu] actually cutting short a trip to Germany to return to provide a statement. Was there any risk of tampering with evidence? How do you tamper with a newspaper that’s already been published?”
UN head concerned over arrest of Önderoğlu
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the arrest of Önderoğlu, during his meeting with the head of RSF on June 21.
The U.N. Secretary General shared the concern expressed by RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire over increased threats, attacks and arrest of journalists around the world during their meeting, according to a readout issued on the U.N. website.
Accordingly, Ban Ki-moon expressed his hope that Önderoğlu would immediately be released.