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Turkey30 March 2007

Dangerous ultra-nationalist group threatens radio

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the death threats made yesterday against the employees of Istanbul-based Ôzgür Radyo and called on the government to take the safety of journalists more seriously. “In the light of previous tragic events in Turkey, especially the murder of newspaper editor Hrant Dink, it is vital that the authorities take measures to protect Ôzgür Radyo’s staff,” the organisation said.

Yesterday’s threats were made by the Turkish Vengeance Brigade (TIT) in the form of an email that reached the “Investigation” section of the station’s website (ozgurradyo.com) and contained direct death threats against the station’s staff.

“Stop broadcasting separatist programmes,” the email said. “We are watching you and we know where your homes are. This message is our last warning. The Turk has reawakened and the Turk’s rage will annihilate those who aim to divide the motherland. If you do not stop betraying Turkey, your end will be the same as the others. Your destiny will be the same as that of the other traitors.” The threats were repeated yesterday evening. The station’s representatives reported the matter to the police today.

The TIT made threats against the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos the day after Dink, its editor, was gunned down outside its offices. The group was responsible for the May 1998 attack on Akin Birdal, the former head of the Human Rights Association (IHD), and for death threats against lawyer Eren Keskin and singer Ferhat Tunç.

A TIT member, Semih Tufan Günaltay, received a 19-year prison sentence from an Ankara assizes court in 1999 for the attempted murder of Birdal, who was shot eight times but survived. After serving four and a half years of the sentence, Günaltay was released under an amnesty law.

Five journalists were give police protection on the orders of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Dink’s murder. They are Etyen Mahcupyan (Agos’ new managing editor and a columnist for the daily Zaman), Ahmet Hakan Coskun (Hürriyet), Soli Özel (Sabah), Fehmi Koru (Yeni Safak) and Ismet Berkan, the managing editor of the daily Radikal.

Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk and fellow author Elif Shafak, who was acquitted on a charge of “insulting national identity” in his novel “The Bastard of Istanbul,” have also been placed under police protection. But threats have continued to me made against academics, editors and reporters, some of who are still without protection.




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