Turkey’s major press freedom organisations, the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GOP) and the G9 Platform, today jointly condemned the wrongful arrests of three ‘on-day’ editors of the Ozgur Gundem newspaper, which has been repeatedly closed down by the authorities as part of draconian actions directed against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).The AEJ is a part of both the G9 Platform and the GOP. Protests are under way in Istanbul against the latest arrests. Can Dundar, the editor in chief of Cumhurriyet newspaper, has volunteered to be ‘on-duty editor’ of Ozgur Gundem in place of his three arrested colleagues. Visits are also being made in a show of solidarity, by G9 Platform figures to the newspaper’s offices in Ankara today as well as to the office of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation.
On June 20, two journalists and one human rights activist were arrested for their active part in the campaign of solidarity with Özgür Gündem which was started on World Press Freedom Day. The three are Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey; Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkish head of Reporters Without Borders; and journalist Ahmet Nesin. All of them face charges of “making terrorist propaganda” after they served as the editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem for one day each, as a part of the “Editor-in-chief on Duty” campaign which began on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.
Journalist Cengiz Boysoy, writer İhsan Eliaçık and academic Beyza Üstün were also called to appear before a terrorism and organized crimes prosecutor at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse. Financı said the reports published during her one day of service as editor-in-chief came within the context of freedom of thought and freedom of expression. But the court ordered the pre-trial arrest of her along with Önderoğlu and Nesin.
A total of 44 prominent journalists – including Hasan Cemal, Şeyhmus Diken, Tuğrul Eryılmaz and Ayşe Düzkan – have served as one-day editors-in-chief during the campaign. Some 37 of them have been investigated or arrested so far.
Özgür Gündem launched the campaign on May 3 to demonstrate solidarity and defend press freedom against the persistent investigations and threats of prosecution which it has faced.
Meanwhile, the European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) condemned the arrests, calling them “unacceptable” and urging the government to immediately release the journalists.
“Showing solidarity by working as a journalist or editor in chief cannot be considered terror propaganda. The Turkish authorities are clearly misusing the legislation to silence critics and human rights defenders. Those people arrested must immediately be released. Turkey is working against itself by jailing press freedom activitists,” EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said.
The Turkish authorities’ judicial and administrative harassment of Ozgur Gundem, and of those who have taken part in the campaign of solidarity with the newspaper is the subject of Alerts on the Council of Europe’s Platform on the safety of journalists.
Read those alerts here.