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Issue of newspaper confiscated for "anti-military" article

(BIANET/IFEX) - The Gaziantep First Criminal Court of Peace has ordered the confiscation of the 32nd issue of the local "Coban Atesi" (Shepherd's Fire) newspaper after it published journalist Berkant Coslun's article entitled "Mother, Don't Send Me to the Army". The newspaper stands accused of "damaging the public image of military service."

Judge Saban Kaplan decreed the confiscation of the issue "because the article contained passages which committed the crime of damaging the public image of military service". He cited Article 25/2 of Press Law No. 5187.

Article 25/2 stipulates the circumstances warranting "Confiscation and a ban on distribution and sales" of publications. Since the article also calls for an investigation, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Yasin Yetisgen was called to the police station to give a statement.

The court's decision was an immediate response to a request made by the public prosecutor earlier the same day. The police went to the newspaper office and collected 130 copies of the relevant issue.

The article in question referred to the Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and called operations of the Turkish Armed Forces in the Oremar (Daglica) region of Hakkari a "massacre". It also referred to the social effects of these operations on children and Kurds.

One passage of the text reads: "I am afraid, mother, take me inside, I am afraid . . . The army wants (me) because they say there will be a war, mother they tell me 'lie down' and 'get up'. Mother, they give me a gun and tell me 'kill' . . . Switch off your television, mother, they are deceiving you as well . . . This song goes around in my head when I watch the heroic soldiers' operations on television . . . ."

Article 318 of the new Turkish Penal Code, which is concerned with "damage to the public image of military service", has been used against pacifists, journalists and human rights activists. Journalist Perihan Magden of the "Aktüel" magazine was acquitted of alleged violations of article 318 (see IFEX alerts of 27 July and 5 June 2006), but conscientious objector Halil Savda, writer Serpil Köksal, pacifists Murat Dünsen and Ibrahim Kizartici, "Birgün" reporter Gökhan Gencay and "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" reporter Birgül Özbaris are still on trial for alleged violations.

The first case in which media or journalists were charged because of sympathetic coverage of conscientious objection began in 1989, when Tugrul Eryilmaz, editor-in-chief of the "Sokak" (Street) magazine and self-declared conscientious objectors Tayfun Gönül and Vedat Zencir were given suspended sentences for "damaging the public image of military service". The "Günes" newspaper, which covered the statements of the objectors, was later also investigated.

The article reads: "(1) People who suggest or encourage activities which damage the public image of military service are to be punished with a prison sentence of between six months and two years. (2) Should the act have taken place in the media or press, the punishment is increased by half."

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