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Turkish journalists acquitted of propaganda charges

July 17, 2019

Erol Onderoglu, the national representative for Reporters Without Borders, was one of three facing 14 years in jail. 140 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey, despite international demands that they be set free.

Erol Onderoglu
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Kose

The Turkish representative for advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has been acquitted in a national court, after facing charges of spreading terrorist propaganda.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representative Erol Onderoglu faced 14 years in jail. He was acquitted alongside author Ahmet Nesin and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey president Sebnem Korur Fincanci on Wednesday. They had faced similar allegations.

The three press freedom campaigners were accused of spreading terrorist propaganda and incitement to crime, in the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul.

"I warmly thank all those who supported us during the trial," Onderoglu told the AFP news agency in a text message.

Courthouse in Turkey
Police had surrounded the courthouse in Istanbul where the three activists were on trialImage: Getty Images/AFP/O. Kose

'The fight continues'

"The fight continues for all our colleagues unjustly on trial or imprisoned," he added. The three defendants had already served time in 2016 when they were initially arrested, and are now able to apply for financial compensation for that time spent in jail. 

Onderoglu also faces another legal case in November, for supporting Turkish academics, who had signed a letter asking for an end to the fighting between Turkish armed forces, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). 

RSF chief Christophe Deloire hailed the verdict on Twitter as a "great victory for justice and press freedom, both of which are violated on a daily basis." 

"It represents a huge hope for all the journalists who remain arbitrarily detained," he said. The organization ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries worldwide for press freedom.

Read more: Reporters in Turkey adopt a new beat: Imprisoned journalists

Little press freedom

Along with his two colleagues, Onderoglu was on trial for guest editing the Ozgur Gundem, a newspaper focusing on Kurdish events.

They had also campaigned to keep the publication afloat after the Turkish government closed it in 2016. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had alleged the paper was a propaganda outlet for the Kurdish PKK political party.

He closed the newspaper after the failed coup attempted in the same year. At least 250 people were killed after the military revolted against him

Tanks in Turkey
President Erdogan closed the pro-Kurdish newspaper after a failed military coup in 2016.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Bozoglu

Around 140 Turkey journalists are currently in jail, according to the P24 press website. Most were detained in 2016 under a state of emergency, declared by Erdogan after the coup attempt.

jns/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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