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Investigators wiretap daily without court consent

IPI concerned that Ergenekon investigation used to justify state action against media

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 18 September 2009 - Turkish investigators have secretly listened into telephone calls to and from popular daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, the Turkish Justice Ministry confirmed on Thursday, according to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News newspaper. The wiretapping took place without the necessary approval of the Turkish courts.

Investigators undertook the controversial eavesdropping as part of an ongoing police probe - known as the 'Ergenekon' investigation - into an alleged plot to overthrow the Turkish government.

IPI has voiced concern that the Turkish authorities are using the Ergenekon investigation as a pretext to harass Turkey's independent media.

"Listening to the communications of a newspaper, and including conversations of reporters who are not related to the (Ergenekon) case, whose names are not in the indictment, is one way to silence the media and threaten press freedom," said Ferai Tinc, chairperson of the IPI National Committee in Turkey. "This is a direct threat to the press freedom environment in the country, and we call on the authorities to put an end to this illegal, undemocratic spying on conversations."

News of the wiretapping appeared in paperwork released this week, annexed to the second indictment of the Ergenekon trial, IPI's Turkey National Committee reported in a public statement.

The documentation showed that investigators tapped the telephone conversations of many reporters whose names have no connection to the trial.

Investigators also listened into conversations between Kemal Kilicgaroglu, deputy president of the Republican People's Party (CHP), and Cumhuriyet correspondent Ilhan Tasci.

Kilicgaroglu demanded that proceedings be instigated against prosecutors involved in the wiretapping, which he also classed as "illegal," although the Turkish Justice Ministry rejected his application and refused to open an investigation, Turkish daily Hürriyet reported.

The wiretapping of journalists is a throwback to a previous time in Turkey when the rule of law was systematically abused," said IPI Director David Dadge. "It is vital that all institutions in Turkey follow the rule of law. The failure of the authorities to do so in this case calls into question Turkey's commitment to a free press and further undermines the country's democratic credentials."

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