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Turkey must release journalists charged with 'terror propaganda,' says RSF

The press freedom watchdog has slammed Turkey for charging three journalists with spreading 'terrorist propaganda.' Washington warned of a 'troubling trend' in the Anatolian country, saying democracy is being undermined.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary-General Christophe Deloire on Friday called for Turkey to release its in-country representative and two other activists detained on charges of "disseminating terrorist propaganda."

"The attacks on freedom of the press are more and more serious, and even the expressions of solidarity are being fought against," Deloire said while leading a protest in front of Istanbul's Metris Prison, where the three journalists are being held.

RSF Turkey representative and journalist Erol Onderoglu, journalist Ahmet Nesin, and human rights activist and academic Sebnem Korur Fincanci on Monday were charged with "terror propaganda" after guest-editing the pro-Kurdish daily "Ozgur Gundem."

Istanbul prosecutors requested that the journalists be handed prison sentences ranging from a minimum of two years up to nearly 15 years.

Press freedom has witnessed steady degradation since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came into power as prime minister in 2003.

According to RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey ranks 151 out of 180 countries, citing Erdogan's "offensive against Turkey's media."

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'Not silenced'

The US on Thursday lambasted the "troubling trend" in Turkey following the terrorism charges slapped on the three journalists.

"As we've said, as Turkey's ally, we urge the authorities there to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in the Turkish constitution, which includes freedom of speech," US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

"In a democratic society, we believe that critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced. We believe democracies become strong - not weaker - by allowing an expression of diverse voices within society and the actions and the work in important efforts of independent journalists," he added.

In 2016, several journalists and academics have been put on trial on terrorism charges for speaking out against the government's bloody offensive against Kurds in Turkey's southeastern regions.

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ls/jm (AP, AFP)

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