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IFEX welcomes acquittal of Turkish free speech activists Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Koru Fincancı, and Ahmet Nesin (Demo)

IFEX, the global network of over 100 organisations dedicated to promoting and defending the right to freedom of expression and information, welcomes today’s acquittal of journalist, former IFEX Council member, and RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, doctor and head of the Human Rights Foundation Şebnem Koru Fincancı, and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin. The three had been facing over 14 years imprisonment for their participation in Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem’s 2016 “editor for a day” campaign.

In May 2016 the three participated in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign, in which 56 journalists and activists took turns acting as symbolic co-editors of the Kurdish daily newspaper to protest its persistent harassment by judicial authorities. The campaign launched on World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2016 and ended with the forced closure of the newspaper in August 2016.

“All of us at IFEX are overjoyed that Erol, Sebnem, and Ahmet have finally been acquitted of these absurd charges — they should never have been put on trial in the first place,” said IFEX Executive Director Annie Game. “However, our delight is tempered by the knowledge of the many journalists, academics, and human rights defenders who remain imprisoned or facing charges designed to intimidate them into silence — including our colleague Erol who faces new charges in November. Today’s ruling is a step in the right direction, but if Turkey really wants to show the respect for civil rights that last year’s end of the state of emergency was supposed to ensure, they should drop all such bogus charges and free all those jailed for expressing their views. As Erol told me before the verdict, today’s societies cannot survive without justice and democracy and the Turkish people deserve better than authoritarianism.” 

Today’s acquittal is the culmination of a prolonged trial ongoing since June 2016, when Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin were the only guest editors to be arrested, then after much international protest, were released on parole. In 2017, suspended prison sentences and fines were issued to many of the other Özgür Gündem guest editors, including Bianet’s Nadire Mater and the Initiative for Freedom of Expression-Turkey’s Şanar Yurdapatan.

While welcoming today’s acquittal of Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin, it is important to underline that the anti-terror laws under which they were charged remain in place. These laws have been widely criticized as inappropriately broad and subject to interpretation, not clearly distinguishing reporting or commenting on anti-state violence from contributing to it. These anti-terror laws are fundamentally incompatible with both Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – both conventions Turkey is party to.

Erol Önderoğlu is also facing further judicial harassment from the state. IFEX is calling on Turkish authorities to drop recently-announced charges against Erol Önderoğlu for his 2016 work in support of the Academics for Peace campaign, which saw over 1,000 Turkish scholars sign a letter calling for an end to fighting between Turkish forces and members of the Kurdistan Workers Party. A trial date in that case is set for November 7. Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media, condemned the new charges, stating that a journalist should not be prosecuted for his views.

Although Turkey nominally ended its two-year state of emergency in July 2018, many of its provisions were permanently entrenched in law, and other violations of constitutional rights in Turkish trials have continued. A report published by the International Press Institute (IPI) and Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) earlier this year documented a continuing pattern of unduly extended pretrial detention and extensive procedural violations in trials of journalists despite the end of the state of emergency.

The post IFEX welcomes acquittal of Turkish free speech activists Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Koru Fincancı, and Ahmet Nesin appeared first on IFEX.


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