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OSCE chief expresses concern over new charges against journalist

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A banner in support of President Erdogan reading 'taking control of our democracy'

Erol Onderoglu has been charged with “terrorist propaganda” in Turkey for supporting a disobedience campaign in 2016 and for denouncing a probe against Academics For Peace in the country.

Onderoglu is a well respected media freedom defender, and is the Turkish representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF). His trial is scheduled to begin on 7 November.

Harlem Desir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has condemned the new criminal charges, stating that the journalist “should not be prosecuted for his views”.

 

RSF has described Turkey as the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists, and ranks the country 157 out of 182 in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index. It is estimated there are 142 journalists behind bars in Turkey, with many more facing legal proceedings because of their work.

The organisers of the 2016 civil disobedience campaign that Onderoglu is accused of supporting, Academics For Peace, had created a petition calling on the Turkish government to end violence in the southeast of the country, and to abide by international and domestic law by returning to the peace process that had stalled in July 2015. 

Signatories to the petition were targeted by President Erdogan after it was made public, and they found themselves threatened, attacked, and subject to criminal proceedings. Many were arrested and imprisoned, and 386 of the 1128 signatories were listed as being affiliated with terrorist organisations, and have had their passports cancelled and been banned from public service for life. 

The recent terrorism charges where filed against Erol Onderoglu because he had expressed his solidarity with Academics For Peace three years ago.

This is not the first time that the Turkish authorities have targeted Onderoglu for his work as a journalist. He is already facing 14.5 years in prison for a press freedom solidarity campaign in support of Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, along with human rights defenders Sebnem Korur Financi and Ahmet Nesin.

The newspaper became a victim of judicial persecution in 2016. In response, Onderoglu took turns with 50 other well-known figures to act as “editor for a day” in protest. He is being prosecuted over the authoring and publication of three articles that were published on 18 May 2016. The verdict in that case is due on 17 July.

 

RSF joined the voices raised in support of Onderoglu, stating that the new legal action against this “tireless activist” was a “shameful injustice”. 

Shift News founder and editor Caroline Muscat took part in a panel discussion with Onderoglu last March at the launch of the RSF 2019 World Press Freedom Index in London.

They discussed challenges that journalists faced in their countries, including how the judiciary was used to intimidate journalists, and other ways in which politicians and government officials sought to silence independent media.

 

 

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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