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"Express" journalists face legal action for "pro-Kurdish" article

(BIANET/IFEX) - 7 May 2010 - The Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court Prosecutor has demanded penalties against journalists Irfan Aktan and Merve Erol, based on an article entitled "Weather Conditions in the Region and in Qandil / No Solution without Fighting", which was published in "Express" magazine.

The Qandil region is a rough mountainous area in northern Iraq where the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has established a number of camps, and where several high-ranking members of the organization are located.

Aktan faces five years in prison while Erol could be fined up to TL20,000 (€10,000) for the article in question, which was published in the 99th issue of the fortnightly magazine.

The article contained statements by a PKK/Kongra-Gel member and a short quote from the "Özgür Halk" (Free People) magazine. These references allegedly constituted a violation of article 7 of the Anti-Terror Act (TMY) on "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization".

The prosecutor based his evaluation on the opinion that "the writing incites readers to violence and indicates that resorting to violence is a necessary and rightful measure".

The third hearing on the case was held on 5 May 2010. The journalists responded to the charges. They noted that the article follows journalistic standards and that neither they nor "Express" magazine had engaged in any kind of organizational propaganda.

The journalists presented as evidence similar interviews published by other media outlets. They emphasized that the interviews mentioned in the article were not organizational propaganda but had to be seen in the context of the public's right to be informed.

The case was postponed to 4 June when the defendants and their representatives are expected to present their defence.


BACKGROUND:

According to the Media Monitoring Report published by BIANET's Media Monitoring Desk on 2 May (available in English soon), a total of 103 people, including 15 journalists, appeared before the courts in January, February and March 2010 based on charges related to the TMY.

The report reveals that as a result of reporting about the "Kurdish Problem" the Kurdish newspaper "Azadiya Welat" faced a two-month publication ban; moreover, Hakan Tahmaz from "Birgün" newspaper, Veysi Sarisözen from "Günlük" newspaper, Rifat Basaran from "Radikal newspaper and Namik Durukan from "Milliyet" newspaper face imprisonment.

Six people (Vedat Kursun, Murat Kolca, Irfan Dündar, Firat Aydinkaya, Ozan Kilinç and Fehmi Kiliç) were convicted according to the TMY and sentenced to a total of 28 years and five months in prison and a TL16,660 (€7,935) fine. During the same period in 2009, 16 defendants received prison sentences of four years and eight months in total.

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