US concerned over Turkey’s arrest of press activists
WASHINGTON - Agence France-PresseThe United States expressed deep concern on June 23 about basic freedoms in its ally Turkey after the arrest of three free speech activists.
Reporters Without Borders Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, journalist Ahmet Nesin and rights activist Şebnem Korur Fincancı were charged on June 20 with “terrorist propaganda.”
The three had taken part in a campaign by the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem for prominent figures to guest-edit the newspaper on a daily basis in a show of solidarity.
Istanbul prosecutors have asked for the three to each be given jail sentences from a minimum of two years up to a maximum of 14.5.
“This appears to be just a continuation of a troubling trend that we’ve seen in Turkey to discourage legitimate discourse and freedom of expression, freedom of the press,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“As we’ve said, as Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the authorities there to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in the Turkish constitution, which includes freedom of speech,” he said. “In a democratic society, we believe that critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced. We believe democracies becomes stronger, not weaker, by allowing an expression of diverse voices within society and the actions and the work in the important efforts of independent journalists.”
Delphine Halgand, the U.S. director for Reporters Without Borders, expressed outrage at the state prosecutor’s call for long custodial sentences.
“Erol’s imprisonment and these of the two other press freedom defenders mark a new step in the criminalization of the defense of human rights in Turkey,” she said. “We will continue to fight for these rights tirelessly.”