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Historian receives death threat, is harassed by newspaper, for questioning official history

(BIANET/IFEX) - Prof. Dr. Taner Akcam of the history department at Minnesota University, who has consistently described in his work the events of 1915 a "genocide", fears for his life since receiving death threats over e-mail.

Researching the source of the threats, Akcam has found a person with the assumed name "Holdwater".

The "Hürriyet" newspaper reported on this, saying that Akcam was "targeting a person who was opposing his Armenian theses". The newspaper has published a string of news items on Akcam.

Akcam told BIANET via the Internet that "Hürriyet" did not give him the opportunity to have a say. The same reporters who claimed that he was "making himself scarce" had no problems contacting him when a bridge collapsed in Minnesota recently.

What frightens Akcam is the connection between the e-mail threats and the "Hürriyet"'s spate of reports about him and the fact that the newspaper was able to claim in its headlines that he was "making himself scarce". "I have overcome much danger, but I don't remember being this scared," he said.

"When they created that headline, they did not call anywhere. They did not attempt to find me. This is a very frightening situation for me," he continued.

He added that he could not but find mysterious similarities with the lynch campaign against journalist Hrant Dink before his murder (see IFEX alerts of 13 July, 2 April, 23 and 19 January 2007).

On 11 June 2007, Akcam received an anonymous e-mail, saying, "Today we have started the struggle against you and those creatures you call friends. If we do not get results, we will use alternative measures. For the peace and truth in the world, it is better if sewer germs like you are eradicated. Tomorrow will be much more difficult for you. Pray that the devil takes you at once, or you will experience hell on earth."

The message continued, "You think you know who 'Holdwater' is. From now on, the world will be full of millions of Holdwaters. One day you and your Armenian blood brothers will drown in a sea of Holdwaters."

The message ended, "Who am I? That you will find out, Taner, you will find out."

Akcam has drawn attention to frightening similarities between the language of the e-mail threat and the newspaper's articles. The articles started 10 days after he received the message.

Akcam argues that the "Hürriyet" newspaper has ignored the most basic principles of journalism in its publications.

In a 16 July statement, he said: "Again, intellectuals and activists brave enough to question the state's official history are being warned. This shameful campaign does not only threaten me, my family and my colleagues; it makes light of freedom of expression."

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