Charging the Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink with spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation is the latest example of Turkey’s restrictive laws being used to silence independent journalism. Ms Geerdink, who has been reporting from the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, mainly on Kurdish issues, was briefly detained last month. She has been indicted for praising the banned Kurdish organisations the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) through her social media comments and in her regular column on Diken, an independent Turkish news website. She is due to appear in court on the 8th of April.
Turkey’s existing penal codes and security laws, with their broad definition of terrorism and membership of an armed organisation, have led to prosecution and imprisonment of many journalists for fulfilling their professional duties. Anti-terrorism law, in particular, carries heavy penalties. If she is found guilty, Frederike Geerdink could face up to five years in prison.
Turkey’s already repressive judicial and political practices towards a free and independent media are about to get even worse. Recent amendments to legislation had lowered the threshold of evidence required for prosecuting journalists. Another draft security bill that is going through the Turkish parliament right now will further erode the basic rights and freedoms. If adopted by the Parliament, it will expand the search and detention powers of the police as well as giving politically-appointed provincial governors authority to assume legal powers.
The AEJ calls on Turkish authorities to stop further decline in media freedoms; to reform the existing illiberal laws that violate freedom of the press and of expression and to stop prosecuting our Dutch colleague, Frederike Geerdink for legitimate journalistic activity.