The International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed concern over reports that Diyarbakır-based Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink could face up to five years in prison in Turkey on accusations that she spread terrorist propaganda on social media.
In a written statement on Feb. 3, the Vienna-based IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), called on the Turkish authorities to drop the charges against Geerdink absent clear and compelling evidence showing that her statements specifically incited, and were likely to lead to, the commission of criminal acts.
A lawsuit has been opened against Geerdink on charges of making propaganda on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with the prosecutor demanding between one and five years in prison. She was briefly detained on Jan. 6 as a part of an operation launched by the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office. In her testimony, she pled not guilty and denied that she shared posts either praising the PKK or expressing opposition against the state, the indictment stated.
“Journalists should not face pressure – much less up to five years in prison – for sharing news or an opinion, whether it be in person, through traditional media, or via new media platforms,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said.
“We find this case troubling, not only because of the charge reportedly at issue, but because it shows a new willingness on the part of authorities in Turkey to target foreign journalists,” Ellis added.
Distracted, but not scared
Geerdink, who has reported from Turkey for almost 10 years with a special focus on the PKK and its bloody, three-decade long insurgency, told IPI that she rejected the allegations that she supported terrorism. Instead, she maintained, her “intention is always to spread the news and to comment on it.”
She also refused to be intimidated by the case against her.
“If they’re doing it to get on my nerves and distract me from my work, they’re successful. If they’re doing it to scare me, they aren’t successful. I feel strong,” she said.