Turkey frees Three Guest Editors of The Özgür Gündem
Erol Önderoglu, Turkey’s representative for media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders, RSF), Şebnem Korur Financı, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), and journalist and author Ahmet Nesin, were arrested on June 20.
Önderoglu and Financı were indicted in Istanbul’s 13th Court of Serious Crimes on Thursday on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” and “praising a crime and criminals.” They were released the same day pending trial.
Nesin’s case is before a different court and he was released on Friday. “Thank you to everyone who supported peace for the sake of democracy,” he said on Twitter after his release.
The charges stem from their one-day stints as guest editors of the Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, which is seen as pro-Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a named terrorist organization. The newspaper’s editors-in-chief are currently serving prison sentences for distributing terrorist propaganda.
After losing their editors, the paper launched a campaign inviting journalists and intellectuals to serve as guest editors in an act of solidarity against violations of freedom of the press. At the time that Önderoglu, Financı and Nesin were arrested, 44 guests had edited the paper. After their arrests, more than 100 volunteered to join the campaign.
Ankara maintains that they are not jailing journalists for their work but are prosecuting the guest editors for criminal wrongdoing. Ankara has named the PKK a terrorist organization and has waging a military campaign against the Kurdish group for the past year after a ceasefire broke down last summer.
Media advocate theMedia advocate Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) called on Turkish authorities to drop all charges against Nesin, Önderoğlu, and Fincancı. “Turkey must stop using its overbroad anti-terror laws to attempt to silence journalists and press freedom advocates,” said Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator.
Another five guest editors of Özgür Gündem are under investigation on the same terror propaganda charges. They were summoned to police headquarters in Istanbul on Monday to give statements.