HDP leaders call for solidarity as Turkish regime clamps down on media

June 26, 2016

Protest against the arrests of Professor Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Erol Önderoglu and Ahmet Nesin.

The 2016 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 151st in a list of 180 states. This devastating record only worsens day by day.

On June 20, the representative in Turkey of Reporters without Borders, journalist Erol Önderoglu, was detained along with Professor Sebnem Korur Fincanci, an internationally acclaimed human rights activist and expert on forensic medicine, and Ahmet Nesin, a journalist.

In what is the latest example of the AKP government's policy of suppressing press freedom, these three public intellectuals have been detained because they have expressed solidarity with the newspaper Özgür Gündem, which has been a constant target of the state.

Since it was founded on May 14, 1992, this newspaper has been subject to continuous violations of press freedom by all Turkish governments to date, because it has been critically reporting on the Kurdish conflict and documenting anti-democratic measures in Turkey.

In April 1994, it was closed down after a court ruling. Twenty-seven staff members of Özgür Gündem, including journalists, distributers and writers, were killed in its first two years, mostly by extrajudicial killings.

Out of the 580 published editions of the newspaper, 486 were hit with law-suits that resulted in 147 years of prison sentences against staff members. After a forced break of 17 years, the newspaper was published again on April 4, 2011.

Since the negotiations for a democratic and political solution to the Kurdish conflict have been terminated, the pressure on the newspaper's staff has increased, as have arrests. The editors-in-chief, Eren Keskin and Reyhan Capan, received prison sentences of three years and nine months on May 21 over allegations of “distributing terrorist propaganda”.

In protest of the government's curtailing of freedom of expression and the assaults against the newspaper, journalists and intellectuals have started a solidarity campaign since the verdict against the editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem was issued.

Each day, one journalist or public intellectual has been acting as the editor-in-chief on duty. Due to their participation in this solidarity campaign, on June 20 three leading human rights defenders have been detained, again on charges of “distributing terrorist propaganda”.

Internationally acclaimed human rights defender Professor Korur Fincanci, who is the President of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, was arrested and subjected to solitary confinement. She is the recipient of the first International Medical Peace Award (2011) for her contributions to the documentation of human rights abuses.

This is another violation of the freedom of press and freedom of expression in Turkey, with which the AKP leadership seeks to suppress any democratic opposition to their reign. In light of this latest example of the AKP regime's unlawful and limitless assault against any form of dissent, we call upon the international public to stand in solidarity with all the forces struggling for democracy and freedom in Turkey.

[Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ are Co-Chairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). This statement was released on June 23.]

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