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ECHR condemns censorship under emergency law, awards compensation to journalists

(BIANET/IFEX) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has awarded compensation to journalists who were punished under emergency law and whose newspaper was banned in the Emergency Law regions.

The ECHR considered the cases of journalists from the "Evrensel" and "Günlük Evrensel" newspapers on 8 January 2008. The court decreed that the punishment of "Evrensel" for writing about missing persons, and the banning of the sale of "Günlük Evrensel" in the region under emergency law, represented a violation of freedom of expression.

It thus ruled that Turkey must pay Fevzi Saygili, Nizamettin Taylan Bilgic and Serpil Kurtay of "Evrensel" 4,000 euros in compensation. Saygili, as owner of "Günlük Evrensel", is to be awarded an additional 2,500 euros.

The court decreed that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights was violated when, on 23 July 2001, "Günlük Evrensel" was not allowed to be sold in the emergency law region in south-east Anatolia. In addition, the ECHR decreed that since the ban did not allow for an appeal to the judiciary, it represented a violation of Article 13 of the Convention. The Court did not accept the claim of "discrimination", which the plaintiffs had put forward, citing Article 14 of the Convention.

The ECHR objected to the fines that Turkey ordered "Evrensel" to pay after it had written about the missing persons. This, according to the Court, represented a violation of freedom of expression.

In a previous decision on 24 July 2007, the ECHR condemned the ban on sales of the "Yedinci Gündem" newspaper in the region ruled by emergency law (see IFEX alert of 25 July 2007).

Martial law was lifted on 19 July 1987 in Turkey, but southeastern Turkey was then ruled by emergency law until November 2002. During this period, some 30 dissident journals and newspapers were banned in the region, including "Evrensel", "Demokrasi", "Yeni Evrensel", "Günlük Emek", "Özgür Bakis", "Günlük Evrensel" and "Yedinci Gündem".

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