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Turkey Releases Six Editors Under New Amnesty Law

New York, N.Y., Aug. 19 — Six newspaper editors have now been released from prison in Turkey since parliament enacted a partial amnesty for jailed editors last week, CPJ confirmed today.

The editors released under the amnesty are Ocak Isik Yurtçu, of the daily Ozgür Gündem; Naile Tuncer, formerly of the magazine Devrimci Proletarya; Hatice Onaran, of the magazine Devrimci Cözüm; Mustafa Demirdag, of the magazine Ozgür Gelecek; Fatih Yesilbag, of Ozgür Gündem; and Bülent Balta, also of Ozgür Gündem. The six editors had been sentenced by State Security Courts under the sweeping provisions of Turkey's Anti-Terror Law and Penal Code between 1992 and 1997 as a result of their publications reporting on the 12-year-old conflict between the Turkish army and Kurdish insurgents in the country's southeastern region.

The new law suspends for a three-year period the sentences of editors convicted by Turkish courts for "offenses" stemming from their independent coverage of the Kurdish conflict. The law specifically targets "responsible editors," those designated as legally responsible for material printed in their publications.

In a letter sent today to Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, CPJ Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr. welcomed the government amnesty, calling the initiative an "important first step toward addressing the many obstacles facing independent journalism in Turkey."

The editors' release comes one month after an international delegation of press freedom organizations traveled to Turkey to urge government officials for the release of the county's approximately 78 imprisoned journalists. The delegation, led by CPJ Vice-Chairman Terry Anderson, also included CPJ board members Peter Arnett (CNN) and Josh Friedman (Newsday), as well as representatives of the Press Council (Turkey), the International Press Institute, Reporters Sans Frontières, and the Union of Newspaper Owners (Turkey). Last week's amnesty law and the subsequent release of the six editors fulfills a July 14 pledge by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz to the delegation that he would pursue a limited amnesty before parliament adjourned for recess as a prelude to more comprehensive reform of Turkey's Anti-Terror Law and Penal Code. The government's modification of these laws would aim to secure the release of Turkey's remaining imprisoned journalists who have been jailed because of the content of the news reporting.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that documents and responds to violations of press freedom worldwide. CPJ’s Web site is http://www.cpj.org.

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