Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Financı and Erol Önderoglu were arrested on Sunday
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Turkey has arrested three activists for their role in a campaign of solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was subjected to investigation and censorship by the authorities.
The three arrested on Monday under Turkey’s anti-terror law are 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.
Turkey’s media has faced repression by the authorities through intimidation, harassment, and judicial investigation since the return to violence in the country’s southeast between the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) last summer. RSF placed Turkey 151st out of 180 countries on its 2016 press freedom list.
Özgür Gündem, which Ankara and the United States describe as pro-PKK, a group both countries have named as a terrorist organization, invited journalists and intellectuals to serve as guest editors in an act of solidarity against violations of the freedom of the press.
Forty-four guest editors have participated in the campaign since it launched on May 3, World Press Freedom Day. Prosecutors have opened investigations into all of them, including the three arrested Sunday on charges of making terrorism propaganda.
In a statement on their website, HRFT condemned Sunday’s arrests. “The warrant of arrest against Şebnem Korur Fincancı who committed herself to fight against human rights violations, mainly torture and ill-treatment at domestic and international level, should also be considered as a threat against the struggle for abolishment of human rights violations including torture and ill-treatment.”
In court, Financı said that her stint as editor-in-chief of the paper for a day came within the context of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
RSF also issued a statement following their arrest, describing Erol Önderoglu, who has represented RSF in Turkey since 1996, as the country’s leading advocate for freedom of expression.
“It is absurd and profoundly shameful to see him accused of terrorism, a victim of the abuse he has always denounced,” said Johann Bihr, head of RSF’s office for East Europe and Central Asia.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) accused Ankara of misusing its terror legislation to silence critics.
“Showing solidarity by working as 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 activists,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard.
Turkey’s anti-terror laws, deemed too broad by Europe, are a sticking point in a deal between the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey, one aspect of which is for the EU to grant Turkey visa-free travel if they fulfill certain pre-conditions including narrowing their definition of terrorism. Turkey has refused to do so stating that it cannot be expected to be soft on terrorism while it is combatting the PKK and Islamic State.
After appearing before a judge in Istanbul, all three have been placed in provisional detention.
Özgür Gündem, in a statement on their website, has said that they will continue their work and will not remain silent in the face of oppression.