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JOINT STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF EROL ÖNDEROĞLU

Posted by: Olga Komarova | 2. February 2021

On 3 February, Erol Önderoğlu – Turkey’s representative to Reporters Without Borders will stand trial on charges of “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, “open incitement to commit crimes” and “praising a crime and a criminal”. He faces these false charges for guest-editing the newspaper, which was forcibly shut down in the 2016 media crackdown following the coup attempt. Erol is facing a lengthy prison sentence of 14 years for his work defending media pluralism.

On the eve of the trial 17 press freedom and human rights NGOs issued a joint statement in support of Erol Önderoğlu. Global Forum for Media Development joined the non-governmental organisations that condemn the prosecution of journalists, and particularly journalist Önderoğlu and his two co-defendants, Shebnem Korur Fincanti and Ahmet Nesin. We condemn the continued detention and prosecution of journalists in Turkey as an attempt by the autocracy to silence all dissenting voices and prevent independent journalists from exercising their profession.

Joint statement in support of Erol Önderoğlu, facing 14 years in prison 

The below-named freedom of expression, human rights and journalists’ organisations  denounce the judicial persecution of journalists in Turkey, and especially the journalist Erol Önderoğlu, who represents the press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) in the country. Erol faces a lengthy jail sentence for his work defending media pluralism. 

Standing trial for having participated in the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign in solidarity with the closed Özgür Gündem newspaper in 2016, Erol Önderoğlu and his two co-defendants, the physician and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and writer and journalist Ahmet Nesin, were originally acquitted after three years of persecution. However, on 3 November 2020, the 3rd Penal Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Istanbul reversed the ruling of acquittal given on 17 July 2019.

Consequently, on the 3rd of February, Mr. Önderoğlu and his co-defendants will once again be tried on charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization”, “openly inciting to commit crimes” and “praising the crime and the criminal”. They face these spurious charges solely for guest editing the aforementioned newspaper, which was forcibly closed in 2016 in the media crackdown following the attempted coup. Together, they face up to 14 and a half years in prison, under the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713 and the Penal Code of Turkey.

The retrial of this tireless free speech advocate is a dreadful illustration of the witch-hunt waged by President Erdoğan’s government against its media critics. Currently, Turkey is Europe’s biggest jailer of professional journalists, and the few remaining independent media outlets are continuously harassed and marginalized, while detained journalists and closed media are denied any effective legal recourse.

We denounce the ongoing detention and prosecution of journalists in Turkey as an autocratic attempt to silence all dissenting voices and to prevent independent journalists from carrying out their profession.

We offer our support and solidarity to our colleague Erol Önderoğlu who has been prosecuted for the past four years in Turkey, and we call on the Turkish government to drop the charges against Erol Önderoğlu and his two co-defendants, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin, and cease such oppression of journalists, academics and writers.

SIGNING NGOS : 

  • ARTICLE 19 
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
  • IFEX
  • IFEX-ALC
  • Index on Censorship
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Media Support (IMS)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 
  • Wan-Ifra
  • Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)

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