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Forty-four journalists on trial in Turkey, accused of supporting terrorism

(IPI/IFEX) - Istanbul, Sep 11, 2012 - The head of the International Press Institute (IPI)'s Turkish National Committee yesterday told those gathered outside an Istanbul courthouse where proceedings began against 44 journalists accused of supporting terrorism that "in this legal case, journalism is on trial."

Milliyet newspaper columnist Kadri Gürsel made the statement in remarks delivered on behalf of the National Committee, which currently holds the rotating leadership of the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP), an umbrella group representing local and national media organisations in Turkey.

Gursel delivered his remarks outside of the Çaglayan Istanbul Palace of Justice, where 44 Kurdish journalists - 36 of whom have been detained since December - faced the start of trial on terrorism-related charges for their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KÇK), a group authorities claim is the urban wing of the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The defendants all face charges related to alleged membership in a terrorist organisation, but critics say they are on trial because their journalistic activities have irked Turkish authorities.

Turkey currently holds approximately 80 journalists in prison. While that number is down from more than 100 earlier this year, most observers agree that it still means that Turkey holds more journalists in prison than any other country in the world.

IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: "IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), stand with our colleagues in Turkey: both those who have been imprisoned for their work, and those who are ostensibly free but face a climate of fear and self-censorship that shows no sign of abating. We urge Turkey's government to release the journalists it holds in prison and to recommit itself to democratic values, particularly freedom of the media."

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