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Turkey detains international rights campaigner

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Erol Onderoglu, the representative of international rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in Turkey

Turkey has arrested the representative of international rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on terrorism-related charges.

Erol Onderoglu was arrested on Monday for allegedly spreading "terrorist propaganda," becoming the latest victim of Turkey’s increasing crackdown on media.

The RSF member was charged, along with another journalist and a rights activist, for attending a campaign of solidarity with pro-Kurdish media outlets in May in Turkey.

The three took symbolic control of pro-Kurd newspaper Ozgur Gundem, much to the anger of Turkish authorities who had the daily in their crosshairs for years. Judiciary officials then launched an inquiry.

RSF slammed the arrests and called in a post on Twitter for the release of its Turkey representative.

“Unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey. Free Erol!” said the Paris-based organization, which has already ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 countries in its latest World Press Freedom Index.

According to Onderoglu, the prosecutor in the case demanded that he and the two other campaigners be charged for spreading terrorist propaganda.

For the past two years, Turkey has been tightening its grip on media, especially those sympathizing with the country’s Kurdish militants, known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The military has launched a massive crackdown against the PKK in areas close to borders with Iraq and Syria in the south. Offshoots of the PKK have responded by carrying out deadly attacks in the capital Ankara and in Istanbul.

The arrests came despite increasing pressure by the European Union on Turkey to narrow its definition of terror suspects. The EU says the law, which has targeted scores of academics, journalists and rights activists, should change if Ankara wants free-visa travels to EU for Turks.

In response to international criticism, Turkey says it sees “no difference” between individuals carrying weapons or indulging in the spread of "terrorist" propaganda.

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