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TURKISH JOURNALISTS SHARE HUMAN RIGHTS PRIZE

The Human Rights Association of Turkey has awarded the 2006 Ayse Zarakolu Freedom of Thought Prize to journalists Dogan Özgüden and Inci Tugsavul, the founders of a Belgium-based organisation that has been providing news and information about human rights in Turkey for more than 30 years.

At the IFEX General Meeting in Brussels, held on 19-24 February, the International Publishers' Association (IPA) held an award presentation where Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu flew in from Istanbul to give the prize.

Özgüden and Tugsavul founded "Info-Türk" in 1974, three years after being forced to leave Turkey after the coup because of their writings. They were accused more than 50 times of having committed "crimes of opinion" for articles they wrote or published in the "Ant" review. From its base in Brussels, "Info-Türk" has tackled many subjects considered taboo in Turkey, including anti-semitism and the question of the Armenian Genocide.

Özgüden and Tugsavul were stripped of their Turkish nationality in 1984. Charged under Article 301 of Turkey's Penal Code, the journalists would have been arrested if the award ceremony had taken place in Turkey, says IPA.

The Ayse Zarakolu Freedom of Thought Prize is named after Zarakolu's wife who fought for many years to defend the right to free expression in Turkey before her death in 2002.

Although Turkey has made many achievements in the area of free expression, a lot remains to be done, notes IPA. While the imprisonment of writers and publishers is a rarity these days, Article 301 of the Penal Code continues to criminalise speech deemed insulting to Turkishness. IPA is calling for the Article to be repealed.

Visit these links:
- Info-Türk: http://www.info-turk.be/#Ayse
- Human Rights Association of Turkey: http://www.idh.org.tr
- IPA: http://www.ipa-uie.org/
- Profile of Ayse Zarakolu: http://www.worldpress.org/Europe/513.cfm

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