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Newspapers fined heavily for reporting on detained soldiers

(BIANET/IFEX) - In November 2007, the Gendarmerie Public Order Corps Command Military Court in Van, in rsouth-eastern Turkey, ordered a ban on all broadcasting and publication of information elated to the investigation of eight soldiers taken hostage by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on 21 October 2007 and released two weeks later. They were arrested on their release and have been in military detention ever since.

The Van Chief Public Prosecutor Yahya Akcadirci filed a criminal complaint and as a result, the Sisli prosecution in Istanbul has fined six major Turkish newspapers for violating the publishing ban.

Two representatives of the "Günlük Evrensel" newspaper have been penalised with an advance fine of a total of 40,000 YTL (approx 12,070 euros) following the publication of interviews with the relatives of the hostage soldiers.

The managing editor, Mehmet Ugras Vatandas, and accredited journalist, Ahmet Sami Belek, were fined 20,000 YTL each (approx 6,030 euros). The information in question was published in the newspaper's 12 November 2007 edition.

On 7 January 2008, the two journalists said in their statement: "We did not publish the exact statements of the arrested soldiers. We only wrote about the interviews with the families. Because it did not represent a crime, we published the article within the framework of press freedom."

The newspaper's lawyer Devrim Avci told Bianet that the "Sabah", "Hürriyet", "Milliyet", "Zaman" and "Birgün" newspapers were also served a 20,000 YTL (approx 6,030 euros) fine each.

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