The International and European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have hit out at the arrest of Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin, who are all accused of "making terror propaganda "after having edited the Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem".
Prosecutors regularly charge Özgür Gündem's staff with making propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization, and related charges for the newspaper's coverage of fighting between ethnic-Kurds and security forces in Turkey's southeast.
Jeremy Dear, Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) told Sputnik:
"We've been worried for a long time about the spiral of decline in press freedom in Turkey, but this case represents a new low, even for the Turkish authorities. This is a group of journalists who have been co-editing a pro-Kurdish daily newspaper in order to stand in solidarity with people who have been constantly harassed, intimidated and threatened. Now, 37 of the 44 people who have been involved in co-editing this newspaper are under criminal investigation. It is a bleak day for press freedom in Turkey."
The arrests are being made under controversial anti-terror laws that go to the heart of the controversial EU-Turkey migrant deal, under which "irregular migrants" — those refused asylum — are returned for Greece to Turkey, in return — on a one-for-one basis — for Syrian refugees being relocated from Turkey to EU member states. Critics — including the UN refugee agency UNHCR — say the deal is immoral, if not illegal under the Geneva Convention.
But — just as controversially — the deal is contingent on the acceleration of Turkey's accession into the EU. However, critics say Turkey's poor record on human rights and press freedom mean the deal will fail.
"The Turkish authorities are clearly misusing legislation designed to combat terrorism to silence critics and human rights defenders. That, of course is a huge concern and should be a concern for all those who value human rights. Clearly it must be a sticking point to any advance on Turkey joining the EU," Dear told Sputnik.
The EU should take a much firmer stand against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the issue, says Dear.
"There are clearly business reasons why some countries want to speed up the process of Turkey becoming part of the EU. For all civil society and human rights defenders and those who believe in press freedom, there are many, many changes and steps that need to be taken before this should even be considered and the first of those is to release all the imprisoned journalists and drop the criminal charges against human rights defenders and journalists."