Over 100 journalists show solidarity with arrested Turkish campaigners
REUTERS photoMore than 100 journalists have initiated a petition campaign expressing willingness to take part in the “Editor-in-chief on Duty” campaign for a Turkish daily newspaper, for which three people were recently arrested for allegedly “making terror propaganda.”
The signatories of the petition, including prominent journalists like Hasan Cemal, Cengiz Çandar and Ceyda Karan, condemned the June 21 arrests of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) head Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and journalist Ahmet Nesin. They said they were also now ready to risk “taking up the editor-in-chief on duty position,” serving as editor-in-chief of daily Özgür Gündem for one day in solidarity.
An Istanbul court on June 20 ordered the arrest of Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin on charges of “making terror propaganda” for the content of reports published by the newspaper on the days when they were on duty.
“We are continuing to show solidarity with Özgür Gündem,” the signatories of the petition said in a statement.
“We condemn these arrests which do not comply in any way with the law, democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and people’s right to be informed. We demand the immediate release of Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin,” they added.
“With the slogans ‘journalism is not a crime’ and ‘everybody needs freedom of the press,’ we are announcing that we are in solidarity with Özgür Gündem and we are ready to take over the editor-in-chief on duty position,” said the group’s statement.
Özgür Gündem has been repeatedly closed down in the past and is seen as being close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
A total of 44 prominent journalists - including Cemal, Şeyhmus Diken, Tuğrul Eryılmaz and Ayşe Düzkan – have so far served as one-day editors-in-chief during the campaign. Some 37 of them have been investigated.
The Özgür Gündem campaign was started on May 3 in solidarity and in defense of press freedom against a number of investigations it has faced.
Another prominent journalist, Can Dündar, who was convicted of leaking state secrets in the infamous National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks case, took over the one-day editor-in-chief duty for Özgür Gündem on June 21, daily Cumhuriyet reported.
“They want to say if you show solidarity and stand by the victim they will arrest you. We have got the message and we have come to show solidarity. If they tell us not go to that daily, we will go on purpose. If they tell us not to watch this TV [channel], we will watch it. In this way we will protect our rights,” said Dündar.
“The state always oppresses those people who think and write,” Dündar said on the arrest of Nesin.
“Şebnem is a person who fights for human rights. Erol has also stood by us [in the MİT trucks case]. With Erol’s arrest, they wanted to give a lesson not only to Turkey but to the world. But we will stand by their side,” he added.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Dündar and Cumhuriyet Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül recently underwent a widely followed prosecution, which ended with their convictions for leaking state secrets over a report they published alleging the MİT with providing arms to unknown groups in Syria. They have been released pending appeal.