...everybody knows that if you cross the red line - even though you have the right to express yourself - you'll have to stand in front of a prosecutor the following day, or more.
Erol Önderoglu proves that even the most draconian governments can stumble when faced with the power of solidarity.
Erol Önderoglu is a journalist and free speech activist born in Istanbul, Turkey. After studying French philology at the University of Istanbul, Önderoglu joined the IPS Communication Foundation - Bianet, as a journalist, in 1995. The following year, he joined Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF) as its Turkey correspondent. He continues to work for both organisations, which are active members of IFEX, the global network of organisations committed to defending and promoting the right to freedom of expression and information. Önderoglu was elected to the IFEX Council in 2015. He also works with the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on publications and projects.
Throughout his career, Önderoglu has been committed to supporting fellow journalists and defending free speech. He speaks about covering issues that minorities face, and denounces attempts to censor such coverage. In an interview with Protection International, he noted: “When journalists speak about problems – the unemployment of the Alevi minority, for example – or the discrimination this community suffers, [they] should be protected by these laws, but in fact it's not the case. These journalists are liable to jail, while nationalist circles allow themselves to set other groups of the population against minorities, such as the Kurds, the Armenians, [and] the Greeks...”
On 20 June 2016, Turkish authorities arrested Önderoglu, along with forensic doctor and head of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey Sebnem Korur Fincani and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin.
The three were 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 to protest its persistent harassment by judicial authorities. They were among 44 journalists and activists who have participated in the solidarity campaign that began on 3 May 2016, World Press Freedom Day.
Önderoglu's arrest prompted an international outcry. RSF launched a petition urging authorities to release him and his colleagues, and to drop all charges. IFEX members from around the world expressed their support via statements and social media, and representatives of international bodies, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatović also called for his immediate release.
On 30 June 2016, Önderoglu, Fincancı and Nesin were released on parole, but the charges against them remain.
On 8 November 2016, the three faced trial in Istanbul, along with the real editor of Özgür Gündem, İnan Kızılkaya.
On 21 March 2017, Önderoglu's trial was postponed until 8 June 2017.
Last Updated: 11 January 2017