Turkey arrests journalists, academic for ‘terror’ propaganda

Press freedom advocates warn that freedom of expression has dramatically declined in Turkey

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A Turkish court placed two Turkish journalists — including a local representative of Reporters Without Borders — and an academic in pretrial arrest Monday over charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda,” according to the press freedom rights group and Turkish media reports.

Reporters Without Borders’ Erol Onderoglu, along with journalist Ahmet Nesin and academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci, had participated in a solidarity campaign in support of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits. The private Dogan news agency said the campaign involved participants acting as chief editor for a day.

The three were ordered arrested after they testified before the public prosecutor with the state judiciary’s Terrorism and Organized Crimes Bureau.

Fincanci, chair of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation, said during her testimony to the prosecutor that all of the articles on the day she acted as editor “should be covered by the principles of freedom of thought and expression,” the agency reported.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests as “an unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey.”

Later Monday the United Nations Correspondents Association said one of its members Razi Canikligil, who writes for the Turkish Hurriyet daily, was also arrested for articles and tweets on Turkish authorities. The UNCA said it “considers this a grave violation of freedom of the press.”

Press freedom advocates warn that freedom of expression has dramatically declined in Turkey, where lawsuits against journalists, academics and other public figures are common.

Since the rise to power in 2002 of the ruling AKP, several news outlets seized by the government have been handed over to businesses close to the party. Tax inspections and tax fines have served to intimidate many media outlets, which fear falling foul of the government. Journalists who are critical of the government have been fired. More than a dozen journalists are in prison, although the government insists they have been jailed for criminal activity, not journalistic work.

Last year, a group of party supporters raided the headquarters of Hurriyet newspaper, following criticism by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Soon after, Hurriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan was chased and beaten.

Turkey frequently blocks access to websites, and a pro-Kurdish television channel was recently taken off the air. Foreign journalists have been arrested and deported for reporting on Turkey’s renewed conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in the country’s mostly Kurdish southeast region.

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