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Turkey urged to lift ban on pro-Kurdish newspapers.

Summary: Turkish government must include press freedom in Kurdish initiative

Reporters Without Borders has called on Turkey to put an end to censorship of pro-Kurdish media.<p>Reporters Without Borders firmly condemned the one-month ban that Istanbul courts imposed over the past 10 days on two newspapers that defend the rights of Turkey's Kurds, the daily "GE-nlE-k" and the weekly "EuzgE-r Ortam," for allegedly promoting the cause of the outlawed Turkey>s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The bans come at a time when the Turkish government claims to be seeking a peaceful solution to the Kurdish identity issue, a source of separatist violence for the past 25 years.

"We urge the Turkish courts to lift these bans and stop harassing news media that cover Kurdish issues from an independent or activist standpoint," Reporters Without Borders said. "Freedom of opinion is fundamental in a democracy and only incitement of violence or hatred should be prosecuted."

The press freedom organization added: "A peaceful resolution of the conflict will be impossible as long as the authorities continue to censor media that cover this issue. Turkish society has a right to independent and diverse news media. The Turkish government's current efforts to tackle the Kurdish issue should also include freedom of expression."

The one-month suspension of "GE-nlE-k" was ordered by Istanbul assizes [[there is no English equivalent]] court No. 13 on August 22 under Article 7 of the 1991 Anti-terrorism Law 3713 on the grounds that the newspaper published a column that was deemed to be propaganda in support of the PKK, regarded as a terrorist organization by both the Turkish government and the European Union.

The column was by Amir Hassanpour, an Iranian Kurdish linguist who is currently associate professor at Toronto University's Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Hassanpour often writes about the harassment of Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Calling the suspension "unjust," "GE-nlE-k" editor Filiz KoE*ali said she was surprised it came a day after a National Security Council meeting that concluded with the government announcing it would pursue its policy of "opening" toward the Kurds. "You cannot talk about a democratic opening process if Kurds are not allowed to say what is on their minds," KoE*ali said.

KoE*ali, the newspaper's owner, Ziya CiE*ekE*i, one of its editors, YE-ksel GenE*, and one of its columnists, Veysi SarisE[micro]zen, are meanwhile all facing up to five years in prison on separate charges of pro-PKK propaganda in articles and photos published in April and June. The cases will come to trial in Istanbul in the coming months.

During the one-month suspension, the staff at "GE-nlE-k" has decided to publish a new newspaper called "Demokratik AE*ilim" (Democratic Opening).

The one-month suspension of "EuzgE-r Ortam" was ordered by Istanbul assizes court No. 10 on August 25 because two articles in the weekly's August 17 issue about the start of the Kurdish armed struggle on August 15, 1984, were deemed to have been pro-PKK propaganda.

Last month was the 25th anniversary of the start of Kurdish separatist violence in Turkey, which has left an estimated toll of 45,000 dead. As part of a drive to grant more rights to the Kurdish community, the government is planning to rename Kurdish villages whose names have been Turkified and to promote the use of the Kurdish language in schools.

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Publication:The Kurdish Globe (Erbil, Iraq)
Date:Sep 5, 2009
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