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Confidentiality of journalists' sources targeted in ongoing crackdown

(BIANET/IFEX) - The following is a 2 November 2007 BIANET capsule report:

Abuse of Journalists' Confidential Material

Recent events at the Northern Iraqi border are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violations of press freedom. The police and the prosecution have compromised journalists' sources at least ten times in the past three years.

When Capa Agency cameraman Marc de Banville wanted to cross over to Northern Iraq at the Habur border gate in Silopi (province of Sirnak), his camera was confiscated by force. Guillaume Perrier of "Le Monde", who was in the same group, was forced to hand over his laptop to be searched after he returned from Northern Iraq on the evening of 28 October 2007 (see IFEX alert of 30 October 2007). Perrier said that he was held for four hours at the border while his computer and other materials were examined in great detail. He told bianet there was no respect for the safety of his sources of information.

Perrier, Banville and Estelle Vigoureux had previously been detained for 30 hours before entering Northern Iraq after refusing to submit their recordings. They were later released on the prosecutor's order.

In another case, on 8 October, in Beytü ebap, another district of Sirnak, the Beytü ebap Criminal Court of Peace attempted to search the office of Emin Bal, reporter for the Dogan Haber Agency. Bal had reported on the funeral of a PKK member in the district, and the court wanted to obtain the recordings in order to "identify who was shouting slogans in favour of Abdullah Öcalan". This case was the fifth example of the violation of secrecy of informants which Emin Bal and other journalists in the district have experienced since July 2006.

On 21 March, the police was given permission to confiscate video tapes from Emin Bal after he had filmed the Newroz celebrations organised by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). The justification was that slogans in support of the PKK had been shouted.

A panel organised on 6 March by the DTP on the occasion of World Women's Day was searched in order to investigate whether "propaganda of an illegal organisation was being spread." When Emin Bal was covering the Sheep Shearing Culture Art and Mountain Pasture Festival, the police organised a search of his office. All of his cassettes and CDs were confiscated with the permission of the prosecution in order "to be used as evidence in court."

The police required the journalists who had attended a press briefing of Mayor Faik Dursun to submit the meeting tapes. The district governor (kaymakam) had protested against Dursun for changing the names of certain streets.

Abdil Tekin, regional reporter for the Ihlas News Agency (IHA), was stopped at a military checkpoint attached to the Beytü ebap regiment command when returning from a festival. He was taken to a police station and questioned; his cassettes and CDs were confiscated.

In May 2006, Tolga Sardan, "Milliyet" newspaper's Ankara correspondent, was called to make a statement by the Police Department so that it could "use his information". Professional press associations had condemned the event.

Sebati Karakurt, a reporter for "Hürriyet" who wrote a feature on the Kongra-Gel militants on Kandil Mountain in Northern Iraq in 2004, was arrested on his return and asked to submit the photographs he had taken.

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