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Food company tries to censor news website's old reports about union dispute

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged that Yörsan, a privately-owned dairy products company, is threatening to sue the news website if it does not withdraw archived articles that reflect poorly on the company. The site could be closed if it refuses to take down old reports about union action taken by 400 Yörsan employees in 2008.

"This kind of judicial blackmail is a real problem," Reporters Without Borders said. "Few journalists dare to criticise private sector companies or financial groups for fear of reprisals. We urge the Turkish courts not to tolerate Yörsan's censorship attempt, which could set a dangerous precedent for online media."

The press freedom organisation added: "The company seems to think it has a right to draw a veil over the past. In reality, this is an aggressive public relations initiative designed to suppress records of an industrial relations dispute that is not good for the company's image."

Yörsan's lawyer wrote to on 20 May 2010 asking it to withdraw the articles within two days under Law No. 5651 on the Suppression of Crimes Committed by Means of Online Publications. Claiming the articles did not "conform to the current situation," the letter said their availability through search engines or in the website's archives threatened the company's "brand value" and "financial reputation."

Article 9 of Law 5651 says: "Anyone who believes their rights are being violated may ask the content provider to withdraw the offending content ( . . . ). The content provider or access provider must carry out this request within two days. If the request is refused, the matter can be referred to a police court within 15 days ( . . . ). If the court so rules, the penalty for offenders is from six months to two years in prison."

In a statement issued on 7 June, ruled out any possibility of complying with Yörsan's request. "If this company is so attached to its brand value, it should respect the union rights that are guaranteed by the constitution. We will not withdraw any of the articles that have been posted on our site since its launch in August 2007."

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