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For Immediate Release
January 23, 1997

Joel Campagna (212) 465-1004 x120
Judith Leynse (212) 465-1004 x105

Campaign to Release Jailed Turkish Editor

Washington, D.C.--The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today presented the government of Turkey with appeals from more than 300 leading journalists, media executives, human rights activists and others urging the immediate release of imprisoned editor Ocak Isik Yurtçu.

CPJ’s chairman Kati Marton, executive director William A. Orme Jr., and Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna presented the signed appeals to Ambassador Nuzhet Kandemir at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., today. “Ocak Isik Yurtçu has been prosecuted and imprisoned for carrying out his professional responsibilities as a journalist to report the news,” said Marton. “We are calling on the government of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to see to it that Yurtçu is able to leave prison and work freely as a journalist without fear of further legal harassment.”

Ambassador Kandemir agreed to convey CPJ’s petition directly to the government and Prime Minister Erbakan in Ankara. He noted that many leading Turkish journalists and some Turkish government officials share CPJ’s concerns about Yurtçu’s prosecution and continuing imprisonment.

Yurtçu, the former editor of the now-defunct daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, is currently serving the third year of a prison sentence of 15 years and 10 months for practicing the principles of a free press essential to a democracy. His alleged offense was publishing articles about the government’s ongoing conflict with Kurdish insurgents. Among the charges used to convict Yurtçu was the publication of “separatist propaganda,” as worded under the sweeping language of the Anti-Terror Law, which has been used to imprison scores of Turkish journalists in recent years.

Marton today informed Ambassador Kandemir that CPJ has documented 78 cases of journalists being held in prison in Turkey-- more than in any other country. CPJ presented the ambassador with a list detailing these cases, which he pledged to pass on to his government for a careful review.

Among the prominent journalists and others signing the petition calling for Yurtçu’s release were Terry Anderson, Ken Auletta, Bill Bradley, Tom Brokaw, Tina Brown, Walter Cronkite, Jacques d’Amboise, Misha Dichter, Phil Donahue, Claude Erbsen, Tom Fenton, Max Frankel, Fred Friendly, Arthur Gelb, Henry Grunwald, Sydney Gruson, Bernadette Guerin, Jim Hoagland, Walter Isaacson, Joe Klein, Jane Kramer, Anthony Lewis, David Marash, Kati Marton, Andrea Mitchell, Victor Navasky, Jane Pauley, Timothy Phelps, Howell Raines, Dan Rather, Gene Roberts, John Seigenthaler, William Shawcross, George Soros, Rose Styron, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Marlo Thomas, Seymour Topping, Gary Trudeau, and Elie Wiesel.

“Journalists around the world are watching this case carefully to see if the new Turkish government will live up to its professed commitment to press freedom,” said Orme. “Based on our conversation with Ambassador Kandemir, we hope and expect that this petition will be taken seriously at the highest levels of the government in Ankara.”

Terry Anderson, the journalist who was held hostage in Lebanon for seven years, announced the presentation of CPJ’s 1996 International Press Freedom Award to Yurtçu at ceremonies in New York on Nov. 26.

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