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Turkey15 February 2006

Police fail to stop attack on female journalist during anti-cartoons demonstration

Reporters Without Borders said today it was shocked at the failure of Turkish police to prevent an attack on a woman reporter, Aliye Cetinkaya, of the daily paper Sabah (The Morning), during a protest against publication of cartoons of Mohammed in the European press.

A group of 30 men broke away from the demonstration, on 10 February in the city of Konya, and attacked the journalist, accusing her of not having her head covered, of wearing trousers and chewing gum. They threw shoes and stones at her and called her a “slut.”

Police surrounding the demonstration did not help her and she had to be rescued by colleagues.

“The police failure is disgraceful,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “She could have been seriously injured. This incident discredits the police, who could be suspected of allowing it to happen and being on the side of the protesters. The authorities must find out who was responsible for this error.”

Cetinkaya filed a formal complaint on 13 February and the Konya prosecutor’s office began an investigation. The attackers were identified in police photos of the demonstration and are expected to be prosecuted. Four Turkish journalists’ organisations strongly protested against the attack and demanded action from the authorities.

One of the groups in the demonstration, the Islamist “Association for Training, Research and Cooperation of the People” (HEDA-DER) meanwhile filed a complaint against Cetinkaya the same day, accusing her of disturbing the demonstration, an offence that carries a fine or between 18 months and three years imprisonment under a 1983 law on public demonstrations.

The Konya prosecutor’s office is expected to decide in the next few days whether to formally investigate her for this.

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