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Turkey2 April 2008

Police assault six journalists during pro-Kurdish demo in southeast

Reporters Without Borders condemns police violence against six journalists during a demonstration linked to the Kurdish New Year celebrations on 23 March in the far southeast city of Hakkari. They were punched and kicked and their film and videotape was seized. One of them, Senar Yildiz of the news agency Ihlas and the news website Yüksekova Haber (www.yuksekovahaber.com), was hospitalised with a head injury.

“We call on the local and national authorities to identify and punish those responsible,” the press freedom organisation said. “The security forces should act with judgment and restraint. Journalists should not be treated like criminals.”

Yildiz and the five other journalists - Hamit Erkut and Erkan Cobanoglu of the privately-owned news agency Dogan, Necip Capraz of the news agency Anatolia, Sevket Yilmaz of the news agency Cihan and Sami Yilmaz of DIHA - were in Hakkari to cover a pro-Kurdish demonstration held the day after the Kurdish New Year celebration Newroz.

Capraz said the journalists were targeted when the police dispersed the demonstration. At first, they were charged by a lone police officer. Then other policemen followed suit, hitting them and seizing their material.

“All we did wrong was to be journalists and from Yüksekova,” Capraz said. The nearby district of Yüksekova was the scene of violent clashes between Kurds and Turkish anti-riot police in 2006.

Meanwhile, DIHA reporter Behçet Dalmaz said police were abusive and threw his press card in his face during an identity check on 18 March in Hakkari, where he had gone for the Martyrs Commemoration, an official ceremony marking a Franco-British offensive against Turkey in 1915, during the First World War.




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