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Editors face jail terms of 10 to 525 years

A Turkish newspaper editor accused of spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was hit with a prison sentence on 2 March that is close to 11 years, reports the IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET). He and another journalist were also charged for writing critically about public officials. Meanwhile, another editor is facing a 525-year prison sentence for publishing information about the PKK, reports the International Press Institute (IPI). And even outside its borders, Turkish authorities wield influence in curbing press freedom, says BIANET.

Haci Bogatekin, editor-in-chief of the "Gerger Firat" newspaper, and journalist Cumali Badur were recently under attack for articles commenting on the former Gerger prosecutor Sadullah Ovacikli and imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

On 2 March, Bogatekin was charged with "insult", "defamation" and "attempting to influence a fair trial." He was handed a prison sentence of almost eleven years. "This is the heaviest punishment imposed on a journalist in the 56-year history of (the province of) Adiyaman," he said. Badur was sentenced to six months in prison, which was later converted to a fine of 1,500 Euros.

According to IPI, Vedat Kursun, former editor of the Kurdish daily "Azadiya Welat", is facing a 525-year sentence for publishing stories on the statements and activities of the PKK. He was charged in February with 105 counts of "helping and abetting the PKK organisation by spreading propaganda" and "glorifying crimes and criminals" in articles published in several issues. On 12 February, his successor as editor, Ozan Kilinç, was convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison for similar charges.

Turkish authorities' censorship also extends to Kurdish media throughout Europe. In Belgium, police raided 25 locations with alleged connections to the PKK. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has attempted to block television broadcasts via satellite, also targeting those who appear on the stations. "As a result of Turkish influence, the broadcasting of Med TV and Medya TV was recently blocked in England and France," reports BIANET.

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