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Turkey17 October 2002

Three journalists sued for "insulting the army" : Turkey breaks commitments to European Union

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Turkish authorities to drop charges against three journalists accused of "insulting the army" in articles marking the 30 anniversary of the execution of three leaders of the far-left movement "Progressive Youth". The journalists, who were indicted by a criminal court in Istanbul on 27 September, are Dogan Ozgüden, editor in chief of the news agency Info-Türk; Emin Karaca, a freelance journalist and writer; and Mehmet Emin Sert, editor of the magazine Türkiye’de ve Avrupa’da Yazin.

"If these journalists are convicted of insulting the army, Turkey will have broken commitments it made to the European Union," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Justice Minister Aysel Celikel, calling for the implementation of the announced democratic reforms in favour of press freedom. "Article 159 of the Turkish penal code penalising "the insulting of State institutions" must no longer be used to prosecute journalists abusively", Ménard said.

The journalists have been charged in connection with an article by Ozgüden entitled "30 years later" and one by Karaca entitled "Reminiscences of 30 years" - both published in the April issue of Türkiye’de ve Avrupa’da Yazin - in which they accused the army of involvement in the murders of several Progressive Youth leaders in the 1960s. An arrest warrant has been issued against Ozgüden, who has lived in exile in Belgium since the 1971 military coup. Their trial is due to be held in Istanbul on 26 November.

More than 50 journalists were brought before the Turkish courts in 2001 in connection with what they had written. Despite democratic reforms undertaken with a view to joining the European Union, 2002 has not seen any significant improvement in this situation. Four journalists are currently in prison for their role in reports or publications deemed by the authorities to be threats to public order or state unity. Journalists who dare to tackle such taboo issues as the power of the army, the Kurdish problem or Islamic demands are constantly harassed.

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