On 20 June 2016, Turkish authorities arrested our colleague Erol Önderoglu, along with forensic doctor and head of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey Sebnem Korur Fincani and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin. The three are being charged with “terrorist propaganda” for participating in a solidarity campaign in which journalists and activists have been taking turns acting as co-editors of the Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem.
On 22 June 2016, Istanbul prosecutors requested that they be handed jail sentences from a minimum of two years up to a maximum of fourteen and a half years, according to the Dogan news agency.
From the moment the news about Önderoglu's arrest went public, IFEX members from all around the world have expressed their solidarity via statements on their websites and social media. IFEX has compiled excerpts of these statements below, and will continue to do so as more become available. IFEX will also continue to promote Reporters without Borders' petition to free Önderoglu and his colleagues. Sign the petition to #FreeErol here.
Statements issued on 20 June 2016
Reporters without Borders:
"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 recognised the world over. It says a lot about the decline in media freedom in Turkey that he is now also being targeted," said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
"Imprisoning journalists and human rights defenders for 'terror propaganda' shows just how vague and overly broad Turkey's laws are," said Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President. "This decision is a stark reminder to the European Union that it should not compromise on its values in negotiations with Turkey over visa liberalization. The EU should stand firm against the Turkish state's abuse of the law to silence critical voices. Turkey should release Fıncancı, Önderoğlu, and Nesin immediately."
Human Rights Watch:
"The jailing of Önderoğlu and Korur, two of Turkey's most respected rights defenders, is a chilling sign that human rights groups are the next target," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director. "The EU and US governments should speak out strongly against this vicious campaign of intimidation and censorship."
"These illegal detentions, on unfounded charges, are not only an unacceptable restriction of the rights of these human rights defenders and journalists, but also constitute a punishment for a legitimate act of protest against the crackdown on press freedoms in Turkey."
International Press Institute:
"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," said IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis.
Index on Censorship:
"These individuals have committed no crime. Their transgression was to exercise freedom of speech to show their support for a free and pluralistic media. It shows the depths to which Turkey's authorities have sunk to silence any and all narratives that differ with the government's," Melody Patry, senior advocacy officer for Index, said.
"Their arrest on charges of spreading "terrorist propaganda" shows that the authorities will no longer allow peaceful civil society action in demand of greater press freedom especially around issues of what the Turkish military is doing to Kurdish civilians in the south-east in the context of the ongoing conflict with the PKK. It is time for the international community to take a strong stance and demand that these writers and human rights defenders are released forthwith," said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.
Committee to Protect Journalists:
"Erol Önderoğlu's only 'crime' was showing solidarity with a newspaper whose staff has been subject to a relentless campaign of legal harassment," said CPJ's Europe and Central Asia senior research associate, Muzaffar Suleymanov.
Statements issued on 21 June 2016
IPS Communication Foundation - Bianet
"Journalist Can Dündar has taken over the duty of Editor-in-Chief to act in solidarity with Özgür Gündem daily in protest of the arrest of Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative and bianet freedom of expression rapporteur Erol Önderoğlu and journalist and author Ahmet Nesin. 'The arrest yesterday is a message. We will do whatever is issued to us and will carry the struggle further', said Dündar."
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
"SEENPM urges democratic governments and intergovernmental organisations—including the European Union, the UN and the OSCE—to demand the immediate release of the arrested journalists and activists and the cessation of criminal prosecutions aimed at punishing critical reporting. What happens in Turkey has great impact on the region, with governments in South East Europe and the Caucasus often taking their cues from the government in Ankara when it comes to riding roughshod over freedoms of expression."
International Federation of Journalists and European Federation of Journalists:
"The three should be released immediately and all charges dropped. Their only ''crime” is to stand up for press freedom and show solidarity with the staff of a newspaper facing continual harassment, intimidation and threat. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in opposing this latest attack on press freedom," Philippe Leruth, IFJ President, said. "Showing solidarity by working as journalist or editor-in-chief cannot be considered as making terror propaganda. The Turkish authorities are clearly misusing the legislation to silence critics and human rights defenders. Those people arrested must immediately be released, Turkey is working against itself by jailing press freedom activists," said Mogens Blicher Bjerregard, EFJ President.
Statements issued on 22 June 2016
Reporters without Borders
"Following a meeting with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) yesterday in New York City, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon expressed “great concern” about the detention of RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoglu and the wish that Önderoglu would be “quickly released” by the Turkish authorities."
IFEX members have also expressed their solidarity over Twitter:
I say we call for 0-0 time in jail and keep up the pressure to stop this train wreck of justice in Turkey! https://t.co/MBsm3Hinoa— Annie Game (@AnnieGame) June 22, 2016