Protest in Turkey after arrest of journalists, academic

Protesters demonstrate against the jailing of two journalists and an academic, outside the offices of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication, in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 (Photo: AP)

Dozens of Turkish demonstrators gathered in Istanbul on Tuesday to protest the arrests of two journalists and an academic on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda.” A fourth journalist was released after a brief detention.

Protesters chanted “a free press cannot be silenced” and “arrests, oppression cannot intimidate us.” Others held up a banner that read: “Thinking cannot be jailed.”

The demonstration comes a day after a Turkish court ordered the pre-trial arrest of Reporters Without Borders’ Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu, journalist Ahmet Nesin and academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci.

The three had participated in a solidarity campaign in support of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits.

Press freedom advocates warn that freedom of expression has dramatically declined in Turkey. More than a dozen journalists are in prison, although the government insists they have been jailed for criminal activity, not journalistic work.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said Onderoglu, Nesin and Fincanci had acted as chief editors for a day for the pro-Kurdish publication and issues they edited in May and June included alleged terrorist propaganda. The news agency also said the court ordered the suspects’ arrest on “strong criminal suspicion.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned their arrests as “an unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey.” Human Rights Watch slammed the “spurious allegations” that led to the detention of three out of 44 participants in the solidarity campaign and urged their immediate release.

HRW Europe and Central Asia Director, Hugh Williamson, said the arrests showed that “Turkish authorities have no hesitation about targeting well-known rights defenders and journalists who have played a key role in documenting the sharp deterioration in human rights in the country.”

In a separate development, a New York-based journalist who covers the United Nations for the Turkish Hurriyet daily was released Tuesday morning. Razi Canikligil was detained for almost a full day after flying into Istanbul airport with his family, according to colleagues.

“He is still in Turkey, and now with his family to resume his vacation,” said Tolga Tanis, the Washington D.C Hurriyet correspondent. It appears Canikligil was detained over Twitter posts that offended the authorities.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51