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Turkey7 May 2008

Concern about violence against journalists in Istanbul

Reporters Without Borders condemns a series of physical attacks on journalists in the past few days. The latest were on 4 May in Istanbul, when three employees of the centre-right daily Vatan were attacked while out reporting in the city and, in a separate incident, shots were fired at the headquarters of the Islamist daily Yeni Safak.

“We urge the authorities to react by taking measures to stop this use of violence against journalists and by punishing those responsible,” the press freedom organisation said.

Vatan reporter Alper Urus and photographer Ilker Akgüngör went with their driver, Ahmet Sener, to Istanbul’s Beykoz district on 4 May to investigate two villas owned by the leader of the Ismailaga religious community, Mahmut Hodja. They knocked on the doors of the two houses but no one answered. They then took photos of the houses and were getting ready to leave when about 10 members of the community appeared, blocked their way and attacked them.

“They began by hitting the vehicle with their hands and then they attacked us,” Urus said. “They asked for the photos we had just taken but Ilker refused. They pulled him out of the vehicle and began beating him. Ilker started to bleed from one eye but they continued to hit him until he bled from the mouth as well. I was also hit on the head while our driver was injured in the left ribs. They took our camera and our bag.”

The three men managed to find refuge at the Cavusbasi police station where they filed a complaint. The Beykoz prosecutor’s office was expected to take charge of the case after receiving the police report.

Five shots were fired during the night of 4 May on Yeni Safak’s headquarters in the Istanbul district of Bayrampasha. There were employees were inside putting the final touches to the next morning’s edition but no one was injured. The newspaper issued a statement saying it thought the attack could be linked to articles it had published about armed gangs. The police are looking at the video recorded by surveillance cameras installed outside.

Several journalists were attacked by police during May Day demonstrations and six journalists were the victims of police violence during Kurdish New Year celebrations on 23 March.

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