Some good news in the bad trial of Fréderike Geerdink

Amnesty has been closely following the troubling story of journalist Fréderike Geerdink’s prosecution under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Today, there was some very good news in a very bad trial: the prosecutor has asked for an acquittal decision Monday. One can only be delighted by this sudden shift in events.  The landscape in which these events occurred, however, is deeply troubling.

As I noted in a previous blog, prosecution of foreign journalists in Turkey are exceedingly rare (the last occurred some twenty years ago).  Sadly, prosecutions of journalists and others for what they say and write is becoming increasingly common.

Fréderike Geerdink

Fréderike Geerdink

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey notes that “the Geerdink prosecution comes in the context of a worsening situation for media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey generally.”

Despite today’s happy turn of events, he also voices concern that this baseless prosecution comes in an environment in which foreign journalists have been subjected to increasing pressure in Turkey

The international press and journalists working for the international press have increasing been targeted during and since the coverage of the Gezi Park protests and the Soma mine disaster. These threats have included: harassment and/or violence at the scene of demonstrations and direct attacks against media organizations and individual journalists frequently followed by anonymous threats of violence against individual journalists.

The move to acquittal for Fréderike Geerdink is good news.  It remains to be seen whether the fact that she went to trial at all is a fluke or whether it portends more prosecutions of foreign journalists.  In the meantime, the flood of prosecutions of journalists who are Turkish citizens continues.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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