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District governor sues newspaper

(BIANET/IFEX) - 1 October 2010 - Copies of the "Cine Ugur" newspaper have been seized based on a decision by the Cine Criminal Court of First Instance, in the southwestern province of Aydin. Even before the seizure, the court issued an order for an access ban on the daily's Internet site http://www.HaberUgur.com .

The decision regarding the access ban has not yet been implemented. The sanctions stem from an article entitled "Desolate mountains, desolate streams, what is the duty of the district governor in Cine?", written by Yilmaz Saglik, the newspaper's publication director.

The Cine district governor, Celalettin Canturk, filed a compensation claim against the newspaper and also demanded the seizure of copies of the paper. The daily is still facing a compensation claim of TL 10,000 (approx. €5,000).

In the article that is the subject of the trial, the district governor was accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the district. Certain terms used in the article were found "insulting and ridiculing". These included expressions such as "to wear blinkers, to be a handler of problems, to turn a blind eye on illegality, to remain silent on gambling."

The trial opened on 14 September 2010. In the first hearing, the court requested that the Telecommunications Presidency (TIB) stop the online publication of the article about the district governor and block access to the website by 27 September as a precautionary measure.

The court furthermore requested that the TIB evaluate the contents of the publication and demanded that the Cine Police Directorate stop the sale of the newspaper's 28 September issue, in which the article in question was published.

The police in Cine immediately seized one thousand copies of the newspaper. Saglik complained to the police about the precautionary measure ordering a block on access to the newspaper's website, but the police did not take his statement until another eight days had passed.

It has not been announced when the TIB will implement the website access ban. The trial against Saglik will continue on 14 December.

Saglik has been a journalist for 25 years. In an interview with BIANET he asked, "Has a district governor ever seized a newspaper because of a column? Is it not his primary duty to respond to the allegations? He could make a statement or deny the allegations. The prime minister is being criticized every single day. So the prime minister should have newspaper copies seized every day. What has happened to our press freedom? It's not just my column in the newspaper, there are also news, reader comments and other things. What happened to our rights enshrined in the constitution? This in fact is censorship."

District Governor Canturk confirmed that he had called for the newspaper copies to be seized. He argued that everything he did was according to the law and that he had filed a complaint against the newspaper.

Canturk stated that he applied to the court based on several articles and news reports in the daily. "I used my legal rights. The court decided that way. The police forces acted pursuant to the law," he argued.

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