FRANCE / TURKEY29 January 2003
Reporters without Borders wins court case against ex-army chief
Reporters Without Borders welcomed today’s decision by a Paris court dismissing a lawsuit against its secretary-general, Robert Ménard, by former Turkish army chief Gen. Hüseyin Kivrikoglu for using his picture without permission. Kivrikoglu was ordered to pay 2,000 euros in damages as well as the costs of the action.
The organisation’s lawyer, Jean Martin, said the court had in effect found the general guilty of attacking Reporters Without Borders’ right to free expression.
The court ruled that he should have sued for defamation, not simply for unauthorised use of his picture, an offence that falls outside the French press law and therefore provides less protection for the defendant.
Gen. Kivrikoglu sued Reporters Without Borders after his picture appeared along with 37 other "predators of press freedom" in an exhibition the organisation staged last May in the main hall of the St. Lazare railway station in Paris. The pictures were pinned to a giant map of the world. His inclusion sparked incidents during a protest by his supporters at the exhibition and also strong reaction in Turkey.
Despite democratic reforms begun in Turkey with the aim of winning membership of the European Union, press freedom there is still limited in many ways . Journalists daring to criticise state institutions or raising taboo subjects such as the Kurdish problem or the role of the army in political life are censored, prosecuted and given heavy penalties. Six journalists are currently imprisoned for expressing opinions in the course of their work.