Scholar arrested in response to advocacy for press freedom
Posted June 21, 2016
On June 20, 2016, authorities reportedly detained Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the department of forensic medicine at Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty of Istanbul University, in response to her participation in a campaign to support press freedom in Turkey.
On May 3, 2016, Dr. Fincancı, who, in addition to her role as a professor chairs the Turkey Human Rights Foundation, joined 43 journalists, writers and activists in a World Press Freedom Day campaign by serving as symbolic “editors-in-chief” for the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. On June 20, authorities in Istanbul reportedly summoned Dr. Fincancı, along with two prominent journalists, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin, in connection to their participation in the campaign. Following the hearing, Professor Fincancı and the two journalists were placed in pretrial detention, and stand accused of “making terrorist propaganda.” As of this report, it is unclear when their trial will take place.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a scholar and other activists as a result of the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. State authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.