Turkey arrests three renowned press freedom campaigners

Reporters Without Borders representative among three arrested for spreading “terror propaganda”, rights groups say.

RSF Onderoglu
RSF's Erol Onderoglu was reportedly ordered to be held in pre-trial detention [AFP]

Turkish authorities have arrested three prominent press freedom campaigners, including the local representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda”, according to human rights groups.

In addition to RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, author Ahmet Nesin and Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, were also arrested on Monday.

The Listening Post – Turkey, media and the law

A court ordered they be held in pre-trial detention after they guest-edited a newspaper on Kurdish issues and campaigned against efforts to censor it, said RSF and another group, EuroMed Rights.

A statement from Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, and Johannes Hahn, the enlargement commissioner, said the court decision “goes against Turkey’s commitment to respect fundamental rights, including freedom of media .

“The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country [for EU membership], must aspire to the highest possible democratic standards and practices,” read her statement.

Onderoglu was arrested for his work on three articles about security operations in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast and infighting among security forces which appeared in the May 18 edition of the Ozgur Gundem magazine, said Johann Bihr from RSF.

Bihr described Onderoglu, who had worked for RSF for two decades, as a “victim of the abuses he always denounced”.

It was unclear how long the three would be held in custody or when they would face trial.

Turkish officials contacted declined to comment on the issue or did not get back to Al Jazeera’s calls.

Correspondent in custody

Separately, top-selling Hurriyet newspaper, said its New York correspondent, Razi Canikligil, was detained on Monday upon his arrival at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. 

He was released on Tuesday after being questioned. The newspaper said that he was arrested over a tweet he posted.

Canikligil has reported on the US prosecution of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab on charges he helped Iran evade American sanctions.

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Zarrab’s arrest in Florida in March and the case against him has captured attention in Turkey, where he was arrested in 2013 in a corruption probe into individuals with close ties to Erdogan. A US judge in New York on Monday scheduled Zarrab’s trial for January 23.

Last month, Turkey came under fire for sentencing two prominent journalists at the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets in a case in which Erdogan was named as a complainant.

Authorities have seized or shut down several newspapers and taken broadcasters off the air in the last year, usually citing security concerns. They deny trying to muzzle free expression. 

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies