Thursday, February 05, 2015

Turkey: Indictment of Dutch journalist highlights press freedom fears


4 February 2015
PEN International

This statement was originally published on on 4 February 2014.

A charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” brought against Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink in a Diyarbakır court has accepted charges in Turkey is yet another sign of the worsening climate for freedom of expression in the country, and should be dropped, PEN International said today.

The charges against Geerdink reportedly relate to posts she made on Facebook and Twitter and to articles she wrote for Diken, an online, Turkish-language magazine. Geerdink faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of the charges. PEN International condemns the judicial harassment of Geerdink for her legitimate expression as a journalist and calls on the Turkish authorities to drop the charge against her immediately and unconditionally and to reform the draconian Anti-Terror Law.

'The fact that the application of this law has been extended to posts made by journalists on social media is indicative of the serious deterioration in freedom of expression that Turkey is experiencing at present,' said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.

'PEN reiterates the call it made to the former president of Turkey Abdullah Gul in 2012 to comprehensively reform the Anti-Terror Law (ATL) and bring it in line with international standards'.

Geerdink's Diyarbakır home was raided by heavily armed members of the Diyarbakır Police Department Anti-Terror Unit on 6 January 2015, when she was taken in for questioning by the Diyarbakır public prosecutor. She was released later that day but on 2 February 2015 she was formally charged under Article 7/2 of Turkey's draconian Anti-Terror Law after a Diyarbakır court accepted the indictment against her. Geerdink is currently free pending trial. The first hearing of her trial will be held in Diyarbakır on 8 April 2015.

Turkish authorities have brought a raft of high-profile cases under the Anti-Terror Law in recent years. Journalists have been particularly vulnerable to this problematic piece of legislation, with some of PEN International's most serious cases of concern in Turkey, including journalists Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, Mustafa Balbay and Zeynep Kuray, as well as 46 journalists from the Kurdish press, all currently on trial under the Anti-Terror Law.

Geerdink is a Diyarbakır-based Dutch journalist who has reported extensively on Turkey's Kurdish minority since 2012. She has a personal blog, Kurdish Matters, where she writes about the Kurdish issue in Turkey and has written a book in Dutch about Turkey's Kurds titled De Jongens Zijn Dood (The Boys Are Dead).