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DRAFT LAW COULD LEAD TO CENSORSHIP

The Turkish parliament's Culture and Education Committee recently passed new legislation which requires all publishers and video-cassette producers to apply for an official sticker of approval from the Ministry of Culture, reports ARTICLE 19. Stores and outlets that sell books or videos that do not bear this sticker will face heavy fines and possible closure. The legislation, which currently awaits full parliamentary approval, "allows for the possibility of censorship should the Ministry of Culture decide to withhold or unduly delay approval," says ARTICLE 19.

This legislation is before parliament while the continued crackdown on writers continues in Turkey. On 30 March, the internationally renown Kurdish writer Mehmed Uzun's books were confiscated from bookstores by police, says the Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression (NFFE) through information received from International PEN. Police told booksellers that "they were carrying out a 4 February decision of the Diyarbakirs security court, stating that all of Uzun's books in Turkish as well as Kurdish should be confiscated," says NFFE. On 8 March, poet Yilmaz Odabasi was sentenced to a seven-month prison sentence for "insulting the court", reports Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN. Odabasi allegedly "insulted the court" during his previous trial in March 1997, at which time he faced charges of "insult[ing] Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic" in his collection of poetry entitled "Dream and Life". Odabasi, who was first imprisoned and tortured in 1980, has also written a public protest of Turkish prison conditions.

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