Turkey’s representative for Reporters Without Borders has been arrested on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda.” Rights groups have raised the alarm over the Turkish government’s crackdown on the media.
Reporters Without Borders’ Erol Onderoglu was charged Monday, along with journalist Ahmet Nesin and prominent academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci, for supporting an embattled pro-Kurdish newspaper, reports said.
The press freedom group, known by its French acronym RSF, condemned the arrests as “an unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey.”
RSF said the three were sent to pre-trial detention after they guest-edited pro-Kurdish newspaper “Ozgur Gundem” and campaigned against efforts to censor it. It was unclear how long they would be detained or when they would face trial.
Onderoglu has represented RSF in Turkey since 1996, while Nesin is a well-known writer and journalist, and Fincanci heads the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.
“Ozgur Gundem” has for years been under pressure from the government over its alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). PKK militants are locked in a bloody conflict with Turkish forces in the mainly Kurdish southwest of the country, where violence has escalated since the collapse of a ceasefire last year.
Turkey in the EU?
The European Union has called on Turkey to relax its terror laws and stop prosecuting journalists for publishing “propaganda” if it is to join the bloc.
The EU is seeking Ankara’s help to curb migrant arrivals in Europe, and in return has offered visa-free access to member states for Turks, increased aid, and the acceleration of accession talks.
But Turkey’s President Erdogan has refused to amend the laws, saying Turkish authorities see “no difference” between individuals carrying weapons or indulging in “terrorist” propaganda.
Muzzling the press
Press freedom advocates have voiced concerns over the increasing erosion of media freedoms under Erdogan. Turkey came under fire last month after two prominent journalists at the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets. Authorities have also shut down several newspapers and taken broadcasters off their air.
More than a dozen journalists are in prison, although the government insists they have been jailed for criminal activity, not journalistic work.
The RSF ranks Turkey 151 out of 180 countries on its latest Press Freedom Index.
nm/kl (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)