Weakening the job by describing all as ‘terrorists’
In Turkey, 37 journalists are in jail. Journalists are arrested every day, detained, attacked and threatened. They are taken to court on accusations such as “attempting a coup, spying, assisting the terror organization, sedition, threats to the security of the state and incitement to anger and hate.” Collectively, they are facing 2,229 years and six months in prison. They are being smothered with investigations and court cases and are sentenced to pay fines.
The public is partially aware of the journalists’ problems. There are hundreds of more journalists the public does not know of whose rights have been violated.
I don’t know about the rest, but journalist Erol Önderoğlu, who was arrested at the beginning of the week on charges of “terror propaganda,” was a person who kept a record of these violations. Together with him, a human rights activist and a writer have also been arrested.
In their arrest warrants, it was claimed that Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), writer Ahmet Nesin and journalist Önderoğlu, by sitting in the editor-in-chief’s chair for one day in solidarity with daily Özgür Gündem conducted terror organization propaganda on account of the content of the stories in the paper.
The arrested trio defended themselves against the accusation, mentioning freedom of expression, freedom of information and freedom of the press, but the judge did not take those into consideration.
Önderoğlu is one of the most ethical journalists who has reported on violations of rights of journalists regardless of their political views, from all segments, from all ideologies. He has files and stories on Islamic journalists who were arrested in the 1990s, Kurdish journalists and local journalists, as well as foreign journalists.
He regularly prepares a media observation report for Bianet, a news website. He has been defending freedom of expression for years but for the first time, he is in jail for this reason. For the first time, he has to add himself to the violation of rights report. As long as he is in jail, there will be one journalist missing in monitoring cases.
Another one of the arrested three, Fincancı, is a human rights activist who would risk her life for people on the other side of the world. In a panel two months ago, she said they would not give up telling the truth.
Now, these three, after struggling for freedom of expression and rule of law, have become victims because of a lack of them.
It is clearly written in the law under which situations arrests can be made. It is obvious these people have no intention of running away. Similar to the case of journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, there is no justification for pre-trial arrests here.
“Before the trial started, these arrests, which were ordered only on the basis of criminal suspicion, are both against the constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights. For such a criminal suspicion, an arrest should not be ordered. The anti-terror law has been one of the biggest obstacles to freedom of expression for years. The protection of all rights and freedoms is essential.”
Contrary to the practice in our country, terror can only be managed by protecting freedom of expression. Moreover, there is no doubt that as long as zones of freedom are narrowed and removed, then the fight against terror cannot go beyond a dream.
To accuse a journalist and arrest him for terror propaganda just because he demonstrated solidarity with colleagues with a symbolic sit-in for one day in the editor-in-chief’s chair does nothing but weaken the business.