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Erol Önderoglu and the power of international solidarity

Protesters, including Reporters Without Borders' Secretary General Christophe Deloire, holding pictures of RSF local representative Erol Onderoglu, academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin, outside Metris prison in Istanbul, 24 June 2016.
Protesters, including Reporters Without Borders' Secretary General Christophe Deloire, holding pictures of RSF local representative Erol Onderoglu, academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin, outside Metris prison in Istanbul, 24 June 2016.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 30 June 2016.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) pays tribute to the massive support that has resulted in today's conditional release of its Turkey representative, Erol Önderoglu, after ten days in an Istanbul prison.

At the same time, RSF requests continued pressure on the Turkish authorities so that they withdraw the charges against Önderoglu and the other participants in the campaign of solidarity with the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.

One of the other two participants arrested with Önderoglu on 20 June, Sebnem Korur Fincanci of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), was also released today, but the third, writer-journalist Ahmet Nesin, is for the time being still held.

Their arrests triggered a worldwide outcry about the latest escalation in Ankara's attempts to stamp out dissent. This assault on the very symbol of media freedom in Turkey was publicly decried by activists and fellow journalists in Turkey, by the UN secretary-general, and by scores of NGOs, associations, politicians and leading media figures throughout the world.

RSF expresses its warmest thanks to all the people, anonymous and well known, who have helped to obtain the release of Önderoglu and Fincanci.

“Our arrests show that the traditional harassment of journalists is being progressively extended to all civil society critics,” Önderoglu told RSF on his release from prison. “At a time when the Turkish authorities are trying to restore their credibility with European institutions, respect by them for international legal standards on freedom of expression is long overdue.”

“We are of course delighted that Önderoglu and Fincanci have been freed,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “They should not have spent a single day in prison. But the case is just beginning and the campaign must not let up. We call for Nesin's immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against all participants in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign.”

As some 50 journalists have so far stressed in their brave gesture of solidarity with Özgür Gündem, pluralism is in great danger in Turkey. Many journalists and media workers are currently detained while hundreds of arbitrary prosecutions are under way.

International support is more necessary than ever in order to curb the Turkish government's authoritarian excesses and to support Turkey's journalists.

Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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