For years, Turkey has had one of the liveliest yet most restricted presses in the region. This paradox was again on display in 1999. Print and broadcast media continued to cover sensitive social and political topics and were often unbridled in their criticism of the government–notably during the authorities’ sloppy rescue efforts after the devastating August earthquake in northwestern Turkey.
Even so, reporters and pundits who criticized the armed forces or tackled sensitive topics such as the Kurdish question and political Islam remained vulnerable to swift reprisal from the Turkish state. Throughout the year, authorities continued to punish independent and dissident journalism by prosecuting reporters and editors under an array of legal statutes used to criminalize expression. At year’s end, at least 18 Turkish journalists were in prison, mainly because of their affiliation with leftist or pro-Kurdish publications.
In December, the European Union at last agreed to consider Turkey’s application for membership. But it remains to be seen how the government of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit will go about implementing the human-rights reforms that will be necessary if Turkey is to be considered for full membership in the EU. In an early positive sign, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem stated in mid-December that the government would consider allowing broadcasting in Kurdish. “Everyone in Turkey should have the right to broadcast in their own mother tongue,” he was quoted as saying in a Turkish newspaper, adding that the government would look into the issue.
Despite explicit promises of reform made to a high-level CPJ delegation in 1997 by the prime minister then, Mesut Yilmaz, the tide of criminal prosecutions of journalists has continued to surge. Last year, Prime Minister Ecevit, a former journalist, gave little indication that his government was prepared to press for meaningful legal reforms to end criminal prosecutions against the press.
Although fewer journalists were behind bars than in previous years, dozens of reporters and editors, mostly from pro-Kurdish and Islamist publications, were charged or sentenced to jail terms because of their work. Meanwhile, cases from previous years continued to languish in the courts, serving as swords over journalists’ heads.
Although the main targets of state legal actions were journalists working with the alternative press, the high-profile prosecutions of Oral Calislar, a leading reporter for the mainstream daily Cumhuriyet, and Andrew Finkel, an American journalist, demonstrated the judiciary’s long reach. In May, an Istanbul state security court convicted Calislar of disseminating “separatist propaganda” under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law and sentenced him to 13 months in prison in connection with his book of interviews with Kurdish leaders Kemal Burkay, head of the Kurdistan Socialist Party, and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Ocalan.
One month later, Finkel, who writes about Turkish affairs for Time magazine and The Economist, was informed of criminal charges brought against him for allegedly insulting the Turkish military in an article that he published in a Turkish daily, describing conditions in a garrison town in southeastern Turkey
During a two-week research trip to Turkey in July 1999, CPJ investigated many new press freedom violations. CPJ staff also met with Turkish officials, including state minister for human rights Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, and urged the government to initiate meaningful legislative reforms that would guarantee the right of journalists to report news and opinion without reprisal. CPJ suggested that as a gesture of goodwill the Turkish government should initiate immediate legislative efforts aimed at securing the release of journalists imprisoned for their work and to cancel court prosecutions currently pending against journalists.
On August 28, Turkey’s Parliament passed a so-called amnesty bill that secured the release of at least three journalists and several other writers who had been jailed because of their published work. The law also halted dozens of other cases pending in court. Like a similar 1997 probation for jailed editors, however, the law provided only temporary relief. The legislation merely froze court cases or jail terms against journalists and writers. If beneficiaries committed any new “offense” within a three-year period, they would be required to serve their previous sentence in addition to any new sentence handed down by the courts. Similarly, any pending court cases would be reactivated. And journalists who committed “crimes” after April 23, 1999, did not qualify for probation.
The law’s shortcomings were illustrated by the prosecution of Inter Press Service reporter Nadire Mater, who was formally charged with insulting the military for her book of interviews with former Turkish conscripts who had fought against Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey. Because the book was published after the April 23 cutoff date, Mater was subject to prosecution. Her trial was pending at year’s end; she faced up to six years in prison if convicted of the charge.
Although decidedly reluctant to stop persecuting journalists, the Ecevit government was not solely to blame for the climate of repression last year. Turkey’s powerful military, which wields tremendous influence over government policy, repeatedly pressed the government to clamp down harder on pro-Kurdish and Islamist dissidence.
But in seeming defiance of the military and the government, high-level Turkish jurists called for legal reform and an end to state restrictions on freedom of expression. In April, Judge Ahmet Necdet Sezer, president of the Constitutional Court and Turkey’s senior judge, publicly argued that Turkey “should change its constitution and laws to harmonize itself with universal standards” and that “restrictions on freedom of speech should be lifted, and our legal code should be cleansed.” A few months later, in September, Appeals Court Chief Justice Sami Selcuk delivered an impassioned speech marking the start of the judicial year, in which he criticized the jailing of journalists and other restrictions on freedom of expression. “I must issue a stark warning,” Selcuk said. “Turkey cannot enter a new century with a constitution whose legitimacy is almost zero, and it must not.”
Authorities continued to confiscate some newspapers inside Turkey and bar the distribution of others. The leftist daily Yeni Evrensel and the pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Bakis were banned from distribution in most of the emergency-rule areas in southeastern Turkey–a practice that had plagued predecessor papers in previous years.
In the mainstream press, self-censorship, editorial censorship, and ideological prejudice persisted on sensitive issues such as the Kurdish question Islamist politics, and the civic role of the armed forces. The mainstream media remained largely under the domination of two major holding companies, which effectively limited diversity of public opinion.
Police violence against journalists continued; there were several reported attacks against members of the press as well as harassment by security forces. The retrial of 11 police officers charged in the brutal January 1996 beating death of Evrensel journalist Metin Gšktepe concluded with a verdict that was nearly identical to the court’s highly criticized judgment in the first trial, in 1998. In May, an Afyon court sentenced six officers to a lenient seven and a half years in prison for “involuntary homicide.” Although the court decision left no doubt that Turkish police officers were responsible for Gšktepe’s death, it once again failed to send a message that violent attacks by police against journalists would no longer be tolerated in Turkey.
The assassination of secular columnist Ahmet Taner Kislali sent shock waves through Turkish media and recalled the early nineties, when there were numerous unsolved murders of secular and pro-Kurdish intellectuals and journalists. Although the government and the mainstream press blamed Islamist extremists, it was not clear who actually carried out the attack. But many suspected that shadowy, state-sponsored elements may have been involved in Kislali’s murder, given recent evidence that elements of the Turkish security forces may have been complicit in other anonymous killings carried out by militant groups in recent years.
The Turkish government allowed private broadcasting earlier in this decade, fostering the emergence of an ideologically diverse assortment of independent radio and TV stations. The Supreme Radio and Television Board (RTUK), a regulatory body established in 1994 with broad powers to sanction broadcast outlets, continued to dole out closure penalties. According to press reports, RTUK has forced stations to suspend broadcasting for a total of 5,642 days since 1994 for such alleged offenses as violating morals, depicting violence, invading privacy, “separatist propaganda,” or “reactionism” (i.e., pro-Islamist political discourse).
In one of the most high-profile cases of the year, RTUK ordered the one-week closure of the television station Kanal 6 for allegedly “encouraging violence, terror, and ethnic discrimination and allowing broadcasting that could create feelings of hatred among the people” in response to the station’s tough coverage of government rescue efforts after the August earthquake.
During his state visit to Turkey in advance of the OSCE heads-of-state summit in November, U.S. president Bill Clinton issued restrained appeals for greater press freedom. At a press conference following a meeting with President Suleiman Demirel, Clinton said the two leaders had “discussed Turkey’s progress in deepening its democracy and strengthening human rights. “There has been impressive momentum in the last few years, and I hope there will be continued progress, especially in the area of freedom of expression,” he said Clinton made similar statements in his address to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly.
Mehmet Nazif Deveci, Degisim LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul state security court charged Deveci, managing editor of the monthly Islamist magazine Degisim, under Article 312 of the Turkish penal code (inciting racial/religious hatred) in response to an article that ran in the magazine’s October 1998 issue.
Entitled “The Unofficial History of the Republic: A 75-Year Balance Sheet,” the piece took a relatively jaundiced view of Turkey on its 75th anniversary. It described what it called state efforts to crush leftist and Kurdish political opposition over the years and opined that the anniversary was no cause for celebration, considering the “lack of democracy” in Turkey.
The charge against Deveci carries a sentence of between two and six years in prison. Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend the case for a period of three years, unless he committed a similar “offense.”
Mehmet Salih Taskesen, Azadiya Welat LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul state security court convicted Taskesen, managing editor of the Kurdish-language weekly Azadiya Welat, under Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization). He was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of TL 3,050,000,000 (US$7,082).
The case against Taskesen came in response to a front-page Reuters news agency photo of pro-Kurdish demonstrators in Germany that ran in the June 6Ð12 edition of Azadiya Welat. The demonstrators were carrying a banner on which was inscribed the Kurdish slogan “Long Live Apo,” a reference to recently convicted Kurdistan Workers’ Party chief Abdullah Ocalan.
Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend Taskesen’s case for a period of three years, unless he committed a similar “offense.”
Abdurrahman Dilipak, Cuma, Akit LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors charged Dilipak, a veteran columnist with the Islamist daily Akit, under Article 266 of the penal code. The charge came in response to an article that Dilipak wrote for the Islamist weekly Cuma entitled “Western Working Group.” The article criticized alleged activities of the so-called Western Working Group, a shadowy section of the military that reportedly monitors political Islam in Turkey.
“Finally they are out in the open,” Dilipak declared. “The dark relations between media, mafias, investors, politicians, bureaucrats, and murderers are all apparent now. They have drowned themselves in a well and are attacking in fear and panic….” He added: “Don’t forget, behind the Western Working Group there is NATO, the United States of America, Western Europe, the CIA, and Mossad. Now do you understand what the Western Working Group is all about?”
Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend Dilipak’s case for a period of three years, unless he committed a similar “offense.” If convicted of the charge, Dilipak could be jailed for several years. Dilipak has faced numerous prosecutions over the years in response to criticisms of the Turkish government and military authorities that he has voiced in newspaper columns, speeches, and TV interviews. He estimates that dozens of cases have been brought against him, many of which are currently pending in criminal and state security courts.
Tuncay Seyman, Yeni Evrensel LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul state security court charged Seyman, managing editor of the leftist daily Yeni Evrensel, under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda) in connection with the paper’s republication of an article entitled “Kurdish Instincts” that originally ran in The Times of London.
The article, written by British journalist Simon Jenkins, was reprinted in Yeni Evrensel on February 25. Jenkins strongly criticized the British government for its alleged foreign-policy double standard with regard to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. “Bomb Turkey now. Let’s not wait,” Jenkins wrote with obvious sarcasm. “Flatten Ankara, tomahawk the Bosphorus, take out Izmir. If we can bomb Serbia for the Kosovars and bomb President Saddam Hussein for the Iraqi Kurds, we can surely bomb Turkey for their mountain brothers [i.e., the Kurds]. Why wait until more people die or until Robin Cook’s patience is exhausted? New Labor bombs sooner. It bombs for peace. Thatcher bombed, but Blair bombs bigger. What hypocrites we are.”
In its indictment, the prosecution stated that “on the second page of Yeni Evrensel an article written by Simon Jenkins entitled ÔKurdish Instincts’ included the crime of separatist propaganda against the Turkish state.” If convicted, he faced up to three years in prison in addition to fines. Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, however, authorities were expected to suspend Seyman’s case for a period of three years, unless he committed a similar “offense.”
Haluk Gerger, Ozgur Gundem LEGAL ACTION
The Court of Appeals approved a 13-month prison sentence against Gerger, a political essayist and former contributor to the now defunct pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Gundem, for violating Article 312 of the penal code (inciting racial/religious hatred).
The charge stemmed from an article that Gerger wrote for the December 20, 1993, edition of Ozgur Gundem entitled “Who Lost This War?” In the article, Gerger criticized the government’s ongoing military campaign against Kurdish insurgents in the southeast. An arrest warrant was issued for Gerger in May 1999, but he was out of the country at the time and remained so at year’s end. Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend Gerger’s case for a period of three years, unless he committed a similar “offense.”
Gerger was previously imprisoned on January 26, 1998, after the Court of Appeals ratified a one-year prison sentence against him. He was convicted of violating Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization) in connection with a December 1993 article that he wrote for Ozgur Gundem urging the government to negotiate with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. He was released on September 18, 1998.
Aydin Koral, Selam LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul state security court convicted Koral, editor of the Islamist weekly Selam, of violating Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law (publishing the statements of an illegal/terrorist organization), Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (publishing the propaganda of an illegal/terrorist organization), and Article 312 of the penal code (inciting racial/religious hatred). He was sentenced to six months in prison and fined TL 98,435,000 (US$228).
Koral’s whereabouts have been unknown since late 1998. He is believed to have fled the country or gone into hiding after the Court of Appeals upheld another conviction against him on the basis of an article that appeared in Selam in March of that year.
This time Koral was charged because of two items published in the October 22, 1997, edition of Selam. The first was an interview with Hassan Nasrullah, secretary general of the Lebanese Shiite political movement Hezbollah. In the interview, Nasrullah strongly condemned joint military exercises between Israel and Turkey, arguing that the initiative was a threat to regional stability and would “isolate Turkey among the Arab and Islamic nations.”
The second item, a column published in the same edition of the paper, also criticized military cooperation between Turkey and Israel.
Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend Koral’s case for a period of three years, unless he committed a similar “offense.”
Mustafa Okur, Milli Gazete LEGAL ACTION
Ekrem Kiziltas, Milli Gazete LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul criminal court charged Kiziltas, managing editor of the pro-Islamist daily Milli Gazete, and Okur, a columnist for the same newspaper, under Article 159 of the penal code (insulting state institutions and the military). The charge was based on a column that Okur published in the November 14, 1998 edition of Milli Gazete entitled “Secularism and Reaction.” Okur castigated the Turkish military’s role in governing the country. He further claimed that 70 years of Turkish secularism had not only failed to result in national progress but had in fact pushed the country backward.
Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend both cases for a period of three years, unless Okur or Kiziltas committed a similar “offense.”
Ekrem Kiziltas, Milli Gazete LEGAL ACTION
State security court prosecutors charged Kiziltas, managing editor of the pro-Islamist daily Milli Gazete, under Article 312 of the penal code (inciting racial/religious hatred). The charge resulted from Milli Gazete‘s April 14 publication of a column by Ihsan Sureyya Sirma.
Entitled “A Letter That May Serve as a Lesson to All,” the column quoted from a letter that a Turkish woman university student had sent to the Islamic University in Holland. The student inquired about educational opportunities in Holland, explaining that she faced “condemnation” at her Turkish university because she wore a head scarf.
Sirna commented: “This letter came from a country whose population is 99 percent Muslim…. Turkey is a Muslim country, but Muslims are not allowed to live in an Islamic way in this country. And here is an individual from a Muslim country who wants to live in a Christian country so that she can practice her religion.”
If convicted, Kiziltas faces between one and three years in prison. Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, authorities were expected to suspend the case for a period of three years, unless Kiziltas committed a similar “offense.”
Oral Calislar, Cumhurriyet LEGAL ACTION
The Istanbul state security court convicted Calislar, a columnist for the daily Cumhurriyet, of disseminating “separatist propaganda” under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law and sentenced him to 13 months in prison.
The charge against Calislar stemmed from his 1993 book entitled The Kurdish Problem with Ocalan and Burkay. The book contains interviews originally published in Cumhurriyet in June and July 1993 with Kemal Burkay, head of the Kurdistan Socialist Party, and Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Shortly after the book’s release, Calislar was charged under Article 8. He was convicted in 1995, sentenced to two years in prison, and fined TL 250 million (about US$6,000 at the time). While the case was under appeal, the Turkish Parliament approved amendments to Article 8, with the result that the conviction was nullified.
In 1996, the state security court arraigned Calislar on charges of violating Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law (publishing the statements of a terrorist organization), again citing the book as evidence. He was convicted of the charge and fined TL 5 million (about US$72 at the time). But on March 5, 1998, the Court of Cassation quashed the 1996 ruling, stating that Calislar’s book instead constituted “separatist propaganda.” The court ordered a retrial under Article 8, which led ultimately to Calislar’s May 18 conviction.
CPJ condemned Calislar’s conviction in a May 19 letter to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, urging that the sentence be rescinded and that the government immediately decriminalize free expression. Under the terms of the August 28 probation bill, the case was suspended for a period of three years, unless Calislar committed a similar “offense.”
Hasan Deniz, Ozgur Bakis IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors at the Istanbul state security court charged Deniz, editor of the pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Bakis, with violating Article 169 of the penal code (aiding an illegal organization) and ordered his immediate arrest.
The charge against Deniz stemmed from an article published in the June 3 edition of Ozgur Bakis entitled “PKK Gives Support to Ocalan.” The article quoted a statement issued by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) supporting the call by Abdullah Ocalan–the PKK leader who was convicted on treason charges and sentenced to death in June–for an end to violence and a “democratic solution” to strife between Turkish government forces and Kurdish rebels. The story had been widely covered by the local and international press.
In a letter to Turkish justice minister Hikmet Sami Turk, CPJ protested Deniz’s arrest and called for his immediate release. Deniz was released on August 11, but his trial was still pending at year’s end. He did not qualify for probation under the terms of the August 28 bill.
Andrew Finkel, free-lancer LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul criminal court summoned Finkel, a veteran free-lance reporter who writes on Turkey for Time, The Times of London, and The Economist and had also contributed to the mass-circulation Turkish daily Sabah, to answer charges that he had insulted the Turkish military.
Finkel was actually charged on September 3, 1998, under Article 159 of the penal code, but Sabah informed him of the case just two days before his scheduled court appearance.
The charge against Finkel, a U.S. national, was based on a February 1998 article that he wrote for Sabah entitled “Sirnak 1998.” The piece described a recent media tour organized by the military to the southeastern garrison town of Sirnak.
In the article, Finkel compared his views of modern-day Sirnak with his impressions of the town from an earlier visit some years earlier. Quoting military officials, he wrote that the Turkish military was apparently trying to win the “hearts and minds” of local inhabitants, adding, “This is a long way from being an army of occupation.” Even so, prosecutors concluded that Finkel had insulted the military.
The court suspended Finkel’s case on November 16, in accordance with a probation bill for previously convicted journalists and editors that Parliament had passed on August 28.
Duygu Senem, Atilim LEGAL ACTION
Senem, managing editor for the far-left weekly Atilim, was charged in the state security court with violating Article 7 (disseminating propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization) and Article 8 (disseminating separatist propaganda) of the Anti-Terror Law, along with Article 169 of the penal code (aiding an illegal/terrorist organization).
The charges stemmed from two pieces published in the June 11 edition of Atilim. The first piece, an editorial entitled “Long Live the Revolution,” attacked so-called U.S. imperialism along with the U.S. government’s role in helping the Turkish government capture Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Ocalan in February 1999. The editorial also quoted statements made by Ocalan and the PKK’s executive committee during the trial.
The second article, entitled “Assimilation and Genocide,” asserted that the Turkish state had systematically ignored the existence of minorities such as the Kurds through what the author called a policy of “assimilation.” If convicted, Senem faces several years in prison and heavy fines.
In a separate, June 8 indictment, Senem was charged with violating Article 6 (publishing statements of an illegal/terrorist organization) and Article 8 (disseminating separatist propaganda) of the Anti-Terror Law, along with Article 169 of the penal code (aiding an illegal/terrorist organization). The charges came in response to nine pieces that ran in the May 28 edition of Atilim.
Nadire Mater, Inter Press Service CENSORED
An Istanbul court banned distribution of the book Mehmed’s Book: Soldiers Who Have Fought in the Southeast Speak Out, written by Nadire Mater, a free-lance reporter with the international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS).
The book consists of interviews with 42 former Turkish soldiers who fought in the civil conflict in southeastern Turkey. The court ruled that Mehmed’s Book, first published in April 1999, violated Article 159 of the Turkish penal code by insulting the Turkish military. Before the ban took effect, Mehmed’s Book went through four editions and sold around 9,000 copies.
Immediately after the court decision, police confiscated unsold copies from the book’s publisher, Metis Publishers.
Hasan Deniz, Ozgur Bakis LEGAL ACTION
State security court prosecutors charged Deniz, managing editor of the pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Bakis, under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda). The charge stemmed from an article entitled “The Gray Wolves’ Trap” that appeared in the June 5 edition of Ozgur Bakis. Written by university professor Nail Satilgan, the article called on Turkish leftists to unite in the cause of Kurdish self-determination.
During the first hearing of the case, prosecutors requested that Ozgur Bakis be banned. Deniz’s own trial was pending at year’s end. If convicted, he faced up to one year in prison and heavy fines.
Amberin Zaman, The Washington Post, The Economist HARASSED
Zaman, a free-lance journalist working with several Western publications including The Washington Post and The Economist, was detained by plainclothes Turkish police in the town of Kiziltepe, near the Syrian border in southeastern Turkey.
Zaman was in the area investigating illicit oil trading with Iraq when the police stopped her taxi, questioned her about her activities in the area, and forced her to hand over her passport and identification card. The officers then commandeered the taxi and took Zaman to the police station in Kiziltepe, where she was interrogated for several hours and strip-searched.
When police officers left her alone in the police station, Zaman was able to phone the U.S. embassy on her cell phone to inform officials of her ordeal. She was released shortly thereafter.
Ayse Pakdil, Zaman HARASSED
Emine Dolmaci, Zaman HARASSED
Sermin Cetinkaya, Yurt News Agency HARASSED
Pakdil and Dolmaci, reporters for the conservative daily Zaman, and Cetinkaya, a reporter for the Istanbul-based Yurt News Agency, were denied press cards by the Press Card Commission, a body of journalists that reports to the prime minister’s office. The three woman journalists were apparently denied accreditation because they wear head scarves. The wearing of head scarves in schools and public offices is banned under Turkish law. In line with its repressive policy toward political Islam, authorities have enforced the ban strictly.
Yellow press cards are given to accredited Turkish journalists, often after a waiting period of several years. They entitle the holder to certain benefits, such as discounted airfare and telephone service.
Nadire Mater, Inter Press Service LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors charged Mater, a reporter with Inter Press Service (IPS), with “insulting” the Turkish military–a crime under Article 159 of the Turkish penal code. If convicted, she faces between one and six years in prison. Mater learned about the charge in late September; CPJ issued a press release about the case on September 21.
The charge stemmed from the recent publication of Meter’s Mehmed’s Book: Soldiers Who Have Fought in the Southeast Speak Out, which Turkish authorities banned in late June (see June 23 case). The book consists of interviews with 42 retired Turkish soldiers who fought in the civil conflict in southeastern Turkey.
In her indictment, state prosecutors cited some 40 quotations from former Turkish conscripts as the basis for the charge.
An Istanbul court banned distribution of Mehmed’s Book on June 23, claiming that it had insulted the military. Police confiscated copies from the book’s Istanbul-based publisher, Metis Publishers. Prior to the ban, the book had sold around 9,000 copies in four editions.
Kanal 6 CENSORED
The Supreme Radio and Television Board (RTUK), a regulatory body that monitors broadcast media, imposed a one-week suspension on the television station Kanal 6 for allegedly “encouraging violence, terror, and ethnic discrimination and allowing broadcasting that could create feelings of hatred among the people.” The station was apparently suspended in response to its tough criticism of government rescue efforts in the aftermath of the August 17 earthquake that rocked northwestern Turkey.
After RTUK’s decision, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit commented that “some newspapers and television channels are having a negative effect on morale. So RTUK might have made this decision in order to provide a deterrent.” The former journalist added that “it is the duty of the media to express people’s criticisms, complaints, and their misery, but they are going too far.”
The next day, Kanal 6 appealed the suspension to an administrative court. The station continued to operate pending a final decision from the court.
An Istanbul state security court banned distribution of the Islamist daily Akit‘s September 27 edition. Copies of the newspaper were confiscated from the paper’s main office and from Istanbul newsstands.
The edition was believed to have been seized because of an article entitled “Open Letter,” written by veteran columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak. The column, an open letter to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on the occasion of his state visit to Washington, D.C., strongly criticized the Turkish government on several issues, including state restrictions on the use of head scarves by women.
In the column, Dilipak asked the prime minister: “Could you tell me how you will defend yourself against the questions about hundreds of teachers and students whom you threw out of their schools just because they were wearing head scarves…?”
The court charged that the column constituted “incitement of the people against the state.” Dilipak, who has been the target of dozens of legal suits in response to his published columns, also faces possible criminal charges.
Ahmet Taner Kislali, Cumhuriyet KILLED
Kislali, an academic, former politician, and regular columnist for the daily Cumhuriyet, was killed in a bomb attack in front of his suburban Ankara home. While the identity of the perpetrators is unclear, Turkish security officials have been quoted as saying that the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front (IBDA-C), an extremist, underground Islamist group, claimed responsibility. Kislali was a staunch secularist and critic of the Islamist movement. These reports have not been verified, however.
CPJ condemned the killing of Kislali in an October 21 press release that urged Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to open an immediate investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Radyo Foreks CENSORED
The Istanbul-based FM radio station Radyo Foreks was suspended for 30 days by order of Turkey’s Supreme Radio and Television Board (RTUK), which regulates broadcast media. RTUK ruled that the station had “persisted, despite warnings, in broadcasting statements from a terrorist organization, thus facilitating its activities.” RTUK went on to accuse the station of endangering Turkey’s territorial integrity.
The charges stemmed from Radyo Foreks’ May 26 broadcast of the BBC’s “Turkish Service,” a regular program, which carried an item about a recent meeting of the Kurdish National Congress in Europe.