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Turkey24 August 2004

One month suspension against local radio

Reporters Without Borders has protested that a one-month suspension imposed on a local radio was "too harsh and once again completely disproportionate".

The Istanbul-based Özgür Radyo went off the air on 18 August 2004 in response to the 30-day ban ordered by the broadcast council (RTUK).

"The RTUK appears to be ignoring democratic reforms undertaken in the connection with Turkish membership of the European Union," the organisation said. "It carries on censoring at will those media it doesn’t like."

"The supreme power of this body remains a major stumbling block to press freedom in the country", Reporters Without Borders added. It called on the State Minister for the press, Besir Atalay, to intervene so that the RTUK could reconsider its decision.

Özgür Radyo was accused of "incitement to violence, terror and discrimination on the basis of race, region, language, religion or sect or broadcast that gives rise to hatred in society" under Article 4 of RTUK’s Law 3984.

The RTUK sanctioned the radio for referring in a press review to the front page of the 27 August 2003 issue of the daily Günlük Evrensel that said police in plain clothes had "massacred" members of the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP) during a wedding in Adana, in the country’s south.

The RTUK suspension ruling was made on 24 February 2004. The station appealed to an Ankara administrative court that upheld the sentence on 9 June this year. The RTUK has the power to revoke the radio’s licence in the event of further offences.

The broadcast council regularly announces sanctions against media that are either pro-Kurd or highly critical of the government, ranging from warnings to revoking of licences.

In one instance, local Günes TV in Malatya, in the east of the country, had to stop broadcasting for a month from 20 March 2004. The RTUK had accused it of "harming the existence and independence of the state, the indivisible unity of the state from its people and the reforming principles of Ataturk" (Article 4 of RTUK’s Law 3984).

On 22 May 2003, a journalist, who was instantly sacked by the station, had offered his sympathy to the family of a young extreme-left militant who died after accidentally detonating an explosive charge she was carrying.

RTUK invoked the same article to suspend local ART television in Diyarbakir in the south-east for one month on 1 April 2004 for broadcasting two Kurdish songs on 16 August 2003.

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