IFEX, the global network of over 100 organisations dedicated to promoting and defending the right to freedom of expression and information, condemns today's sentencing of journalist and IFEX member Nadire Mater to a 15 month suspended sentence for her one day guest editorship of Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. We believe this decision is an attempt to silence Mater's long record of principled criticism of Turkey's government and its human rights record.
Mater 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. 38 journalists and activists are being prosecuted or have been convicted for their involvement in the solidarity campaign, including Nadire Mater; IFEX Council member and journalist Erol Önderoglu, also from Bianet; and Şanar Yurdatapan, spokesperson for IFEX member the Initiative for Free Expression - Turkey.
We are not face to face with a lawful trial.
Meriç Eyüboğlu, Mater's attorney
On 7 March 2017 Mater was sentenced to a 15 month suspended sentence for "terror propaganda" under article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Act, and fined 6000 Turkish lira (approximately €1500). This is not Mater's first time in court for reporting ; in 2000, a case was dismissed against her for 'insulting' Turkey's military by releasing a book of interviews with conscripts in the conflict in Southeast Turkey.
Meriç Eyüboğlu, Mater's attorney, has called the proceedings "not a lawful trial". In his view, "interviews or statements being derogatory against governmental policies doesn't justify this".
We see the suspended sentence, like that levelled against fellow guest editor Şanar Yurdatapan last month, as a politicized attempt to silence dissent. By issuing a sentence that will come into effect if the state determines that Mater has re-offended within the next two years, the government is attempting to silence Mater's constitutionally and internationally protected right to freely express differing views from those championed by the government.
People like Nadire who dedicate their lives to collecting and amplifying marginalized voices play a crucial role in maintaining a vibrant and engaged civil society.
Annie Game, Executive Director of IFEX
Turkey's government has consistently used the ongoing state of emergency, renewed twice since last year's attempted coup, as an opportunity to crack down on all forms of opposition to the government. It has labeled and prosecuted thousands of its perceived enemies as Gulenist coup supporters, terrorists and PKK members, using overly broad anti-terrorism legislation to secure convictions despite marginal or purely association-based evidence.
“Nadire Mater's conviction is outrageous,” said IFEX Executive Director Annie Game. “People like Nadire who dedicate their lives to collecting and amplifying marginalized voices play a crucial role in maintaining a vibrant and engaged civil society. We wholeheartedly condemn this tainted conviction, and hope to see it appropriately overturned on appeal to a higher court.”