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Magazine fined, forced to shut down

(BIANET/IFEX) - 29 June 2011 - The Children's Protection Board ruled that some drawings in the satiric "Harakiri" magazine were harmful to children. The magazine was handed down a TL 150,000 (approx. € 75,000) fine that forced the owners to cease publication for good after the second issue. Renowned Turkish caricaturists, including Bahadir Boysal, Serhat Gurpinar, Behic Pek and Cezmi Ersoz, had contributed to the monthly magazine.

The magazine's first issue was published in May 2011. The Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications decided that three drawings contained in the first issue "had a harmful influence on the moral behaviour of minors". The board banned the magazine for underage readers.

Caricaturist Tuncay Akgun, editor-in-chief of the magazine, said, "Nowadays, freedom of creativity is being restricted as well as freedom of expression. It is very strange that fiction cannot be distinguished from reality. We were concerned when we prepared the second issue. We felt that we were drifting towards self-censorship. You start to huddle under the umbrella of the norm automatically and this is the real danger."

Internationally recognized artist Kutlukhan Perker was angered by the decision. "You are not even granted the right to defend yourself. The protection board applies a sanction with an extrajudicial punishment. It is appalling that a caricature is treated as if it was hard porn. The magazine cannot be sold to minors and it cannot be put on the shelves. These are heavy economic sanctions. This is a decision for destruction. The humour we made turned into a tragedy," Perker said.

The artist said he was planning to take legal action. Perker noted that the monetary fine was very high, based on the circulation of the magazine according to Law No. 1117 on the Protection of Minors from Harmful Publications.

In a notification sent to the magazine, the protection board alleged the caricature "Relations" by Mehmet Ersoy "encouraged extramarital relations". The notification states, "Next to the writing entitled 'selfish' on page 15 the female genitals can be seen. On page 44, pictures show a naked couple in different positions of sexual intercourse. The cartoonish pictures enhance sexual incitement. The drawings supported by speech bubbles and drawings ordered like a photo romance plus the narration have a stronger influence on our children. ( . . . ) Societies established social norms in order to protect their assets and to maintain social order. Press and publication outlets must comply with these norms".

BIANET expressed concern over the actions of the protection board and the imposed restrictions on free expression.

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