IFEX, the global network of over 100 organisations dedicated to promoting and defending the right to freedom of expression and information, is disappointed and deeply concerned by today's sentencing of IFEX member and human rights defender Şanar Yurdatapan to a 15 month suspended sentence for his one day guest editorship of Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. We believe this decision is an attempt to silence Yurdatapan's long record of principled criticism of Turkey's government and its human rights record.
Şanar Yurdatapan has worked tirelessly for freedom of expression for over 30 years and is a spokesperson for the Initiative for Freedom of Expression-Turkey – a non-profit organisation that defines itself as a “a movement of civil disobedience that is breaking anti-democratic rules.” The group has been a member of IFEX since 2007.
"Şanar Yurdatapan is a champion of freedom of expression and avid promoter of human rights - he deserves accolades, not prison bars."
Yurdatapan was charged with promoting “terrorist propaganda” for participating in a solidarity campaign launched on 3 May 2016, World Press Freedom Day, in which journalists and activists took turns acting as one-day honorary chief editors of the Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem to protest its persistent harassment by judicial authorities. 36 journalists and activists are now being prosecuted for their involvement in the solidarity campaign, including Şanar Yurdatapan; Nadire Mater, from IFEX member Bianet; and IFEX Council member and journalist Erol Önderoglu.
On 13 January 2017 Yurdatapan was sentenced to a 15 month suspended sentence for his participation, and fined 6000 Turkish lira (approximately €1500). This will be his fourth time facing imprisonment, having been detained in 1996, 1997 and 2000 as a result of his peaceful activism. He has stated that he intends to appeal the decision.
We see the suspended sentence, which will come into effect if the state determines that Yurdatapan has re-offended within the next two years, as an attempt to silence Yurdatapan's constitutionally and internationally protected right to freely express criticism of the government. Turkey's government has used the ongoing state of emergency, recently renewed for three months for the second time since last year's attempted coup, as an opportunity to crack down on all forms of opposition to the government labeling their perceived enemies as Gulenist coup supporters or PKK members and prosecuting thousands of them.
“Şanar Yurdatapan is a champion of freedom of expression and avid promoter of human rights - he deserves accolades, not prison bars,” said IFEX Executive Director Annie Game. “People like Şanar who speak out when they see injustice and dedicate their lives to this important work play a key role in maintaining a vibrant and engaged civil society. We wholeheartedly condemn this outrageous conviction, and hope it will be appropriately overturned on appeal to a higher court.”