The International Press Institute (IPI) co-sponsored a joint statement delivered today before a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva calling on Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, journalist Ahmet Nesin and academic Şebnem Korur Fincancı.

The three were arrested and charged on Monday with distributing “terrorist propaganda” after acting, respectively, as symbolic “co-editors-in-chief” for Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem for one day each. They are currently in pre-trial detention.

Some 30 groups defending free expression and human rights added their endorsement to the joint statement.

The full text of the statement appears below.


HRC 32 – Item 4: Situations requiring the Council’s attention
22 June 2016

PEN International, ARTICLE 19, International Federation of Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, International Press Institute

Reporters Without Borders is stunned by the arrest of its representative in Turkey, Erol Önderoğlu, placed in pre-trial detention by an Istanbul court on 20th June 2016, along with two of his colleagues.

Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Sebnem Korur Fincancɪ are accused of “terrorist propaganda” for having taken part in a solidarity campaign with the Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem. Along with fourty other intellectuals, they had been taking turns to symbolically assume the role of the newspaper’s editor who is the target of numerous prosecutions.

After being questioned by a prosecutor on June 20th, Önderoğlu and his two colleagues were immediately referred to an Istanbul judge, who ordered they be placed in pre-trial detention.

Erol Önderoğlu is being prosecuted on the basis of three articles published by Özgür Gündem on 18 May about power struggles within the various Turkish security forces and the ongoing operations against Kurdish rebels in south-eastern Anatolia.

RSF’s representative in Turkey since 1996, Önderoğlu compiles quarterly/triennial reports on the state of freedom of expression in Turkey for the Bianet news website. He is a member of the board of IFEX (the International Freedom of Expression Exchange) and often works with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and several other international organizations.

Yesterday, during this debate, the Turkish delegate strongly affirmed his country respect for freedom of expression and civil society space. We call on Turkey to stand by its commitments as stated yesterday by immediately and unconditionally releasing Erol Önderoğlu and his colleagues and by dropping all charges against the participants in the solidarity campaign.

*Delivered on behalf of a further 26 non-ECOSOC NGOs.

Committee to Protect Journalists
Ethical Journalism Network
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
Index on Censorship
Global Editors Network
Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS)
PEN Japan
PEN Norway
PEN Turkey
PEN America
PEN Trieste
English PEN
PEN Afrikaans
PEN Russia
PEN Finland
PEN Canada
PEN South Africa
PEN Czech Republic
PEN Català
PEN Portugal
PEN Germany
PEN Bangladesh
PEN Denmark
PEN San Miguel, Mexico

*This statement was updated on June 24, 2016 to reflect the full remarks, as delivered by Hélène Sackstein of RSF before the U.N. Human Rights Council.