Parliament abolished the death penalty in peacetime, legalised broadcasting in the Kurdish language and abolished prison terms for press offences. The state of emergency, which had led to many violations of press freedom in the southeastern part of the country over the past 15 years, was lifted on 30 November.
The legal provisions most often used against journalists - punishing "insults to the state and its institutions and threats against the indivisible unity of the republic ... incitement to hatred on the basis of class, race, religion, sect or region ... making propaganda for a terrorist organisation ... separatist propaganda" or supporting an illegal organisation - were amended. But the changes left much to the whim of judges and only when they are applied will the true impact of the amendments on freedom of expression be seen. Several trials of journalists have already taken place under the new provisions.
The revision of the media law strengthened its more repressive aspects, allowing for tighter government control of the National Broadcasting Council (RTÜK), heavier fines than ever for the media, a challenge to freedom of expression on the Internet and further narrowing of media ownership. Journalists daring to criticise state institutions or tackle taboo subjects, such as the Kurdish problem and the part played by the army in political life, are still censored, fined heavily and prosecuted without good reason.
A European Commission report on progress made by Turkey in 2002 in its efforts to win membership of the European Union said that despite the legal reforms, there were still major restrictions, especially of freedom of expression in both the written and broadcast media.
But the pro-Islamic government that came to power at the end of the year said it would push new laws promoting democracy and bringing the country in line with European standards, so as to bring forward the December 2004 date set by the EU to examine Turkey’s candidacy.
New information on journalists killed before 2002
Islamist militants Ferhan Özmen, Necdet Yüksel and Rüstü Aytufan were sentenced to death on 7 January 2002 for "trying to overthrow the constitutional order and replace it with an Islamic regime" and for killing a number of pro-secular intellectuals, including journalists Ugur Mumcu and Ahmet Taner Kislali, columnists on the daily Cumhuriyet. Reforms in August abolished the death penalty in peacetime and replaced it with life imprisonment.
During their trial, 15 other people were given heavy prison sentences and four more acquitted for lack of evidence. The Appeals Court upheld some of these convictions on 13 November. Mumcu had been killed on 24 January 1993 by a car bomb for which several Islamist groups claimed responsibility. Kislali was killed in a bomb explosion on 21 October 1999 and the fundamentalist Islamic Front of Raiders of the Great Orient claimed credit.
On 7 March, the Appeals Court confirmed the death penalty imposed on Irfan Cagrici, the main suspect in the 24 July 2000 murder of journalist Cetin Emeç, but peacetime death penalties were replaced in August with life imprisonment. Emeç, editor and columnist of the daily Hürriyet, was murdered on 7 March 1990 in Istanbul. Cagrici, a member of the Islamist Movement Organisation (IHÖ), was arrested on 10March 1996. The Union of Turkish Islamic Commandos said it had killed him to punish "those who insult Islam." One of Emeç’s last articles accused Syria of being behind Kurdish terrorism in Turkey.
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed an amnesty law on 27 April that would have cancelled the sentence of Mehmet Ali Agca, who is serving a life term for the 1979 murder of Abdi Ipekçi, managing editor of the daily Milliyet. Agca’s sentence had already been reduced to 10 years in 1991.
18 journalists imprisoned
Most journalists in prison in Turkey are there for "belonging to an illegal organisation" or for various offences committed as members of them. Journalists that Reporters Without Borders has defended have also been convicted for putting out news and publications that the authorities consider a threat to public order or national unity, but are well within the bounds of freedom and diversity of news by democratic standards.
In 2002, five journalists, Mustafa Benli, Kemal Evcimen, Memik Horuz, Hasan Özgün and Nureddin Sirin, had been in prison for several years for expressing their opinions in the course of their work.
Kemal Evcimen, owner and editor of the magazine Özgür Karadeniz, was arrested on 16 January 1995 in the northeastern town of Trabzon and imprisoned in Erzurum. The Erzurum state security court sentenced him to 12 and a half years in prison on 27 November 1998 for "belonging to the Revolutionary Party and Front for the Liberation of the Turkish People (DHKPC)." He was being held at the type F prison at Sincan (Ankara).
Hasan Özgün, correspondent of the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, in Diyarbakir, was arrested in December 1993 and sentenced by the state security court on 17 January 1996 to 12 and a half years in prison for "belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)." He was also convicted of insulting state institutions (article 159 of the criminal code) by formally asking for a retrial. He was being held in prison in the southwestern town of Aydin. While being interrogated in 1993, his colleagues were reportedly tortured into implicating him.
Nureddin Sirin, a columnist with the Islamist weekly Selam, was arrested on 6February 1997 and sentenced in September that year to 17 and a half years in prison for "belonging to the Hezbollah." The Appeals Court also confirmed in June 1999 a 20-month prison sentence on him for "incitement to hatred and enmity." He had written an article in the paper on 15June 1997 called "We must be on the side of the oppressed, even if they are atheist." He was being held in the type F prison in the northwestern town of Bolu.
Mustafa Benli, owner and editor of the monthly Hedef who also wrote for the magazines Liseli Arkadas and Alevi Halk Gerçegi, was imprisoned in February 1998 and sentenced in November 1999 to 12 and a half years for "belonging to an illegal organisation" (article 168-2 of the criminal code). His lawyer, Hasan Erdogan, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on 24 October 2000.
Memik Horuz, editor of the far-left magazine Isçi Köylü (Village Labourer), was arrested on 18 June 2001 and charged by the Ankara state security court with "helping an illegal organisation," by "doing interviews with militants of the TKP/ML TIKKO" (the armed wing of Marxist-Leninist Turkish Communist Party) and publishing them in the former magazine Özgür Geleçek. After three hearings, the court rejected his request to be released.
Irfan Aydin, correspondent in the southeastern town of Batman for the pro-Kurdish weekly Yedinci Gündem, was brutally arrested on 15 February 2002 while covering a secret meeting to mark the third anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He was accused of helping an illegal organisation (article 169 of the criminal code) and imprisoned in Batman. He was freed on 23 May and cleared on 19 September for "lack of evidence."
Azad Adiyaman, of the pro-Kurdish weekly Yedinci Gundem, was jailed on 21 April for helping an illegal organisation (the PKK). Police said he had actively taken part in a Kurdish New Year gathering on 21 March. He was cleared and released on 16 October when the court accepted that he had been there as a journalist.
Ahmet Aksoy, owner of the newspaper Olusum in the southeastern town of Gaziantep, was imprisoned on 29 May for "mocking and insulting the state" by calling it "fascist" in an article. He was conditionally freed on 8 August and acquitted for "lack of evidence" on 17September.
Mehmet Eren, correspondent in Diyarbakir of the Kurdish magazines Dema Nû and Deng, was arrested on the night of the 12 June and imprisoned until 21 June for "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation." He regularly covered the activities of the banned Kurdistan Socialist Party. He was cleared for "lack of convincing evidence" on 24 December.
Halil Dinç, editor of the far-left weekly Yasamda Atilim, was jailed in Eastern Thrace on 5 July for "belonging to an illegal organisation" based on evidence dating from 1995. He was freed on 16 October.
Mülge Moldali, owner and editor of the far-left magazine Yeniden Atilim, and Ali Ihsan Topçu, former editor of the magazine Özgür Gençlik, and several contributors to these publications were arrested in Istanbul on 10 July in a raid on the offices of Yeniden Atilim, on suspicion of helping illegal organisations. They were free on 14 July. Computer and printing equipment and the paper’s archives were seized by the police.
Sinan Kara, owner of the general interest fortnightly magazine Datça Haber and correspondent for the Dogan news agency in the Datça region, was jailed on 26 December at the Ula prison in the southwestern town of Mugla. He had been sentenced to three months in prison on 4April 2001 for failing to send two copies of the magazine to the sub-prefect as required by the press law but this was commuted on 2 September that year to a fine of 30 billion Turkish pounds (19,000 euros). He had not been able to pay a first part of this sum and on 29 November 2002 the sentence was changed to three months and eight days in prison. He had exhausted all appeal possibilities. Kara often criticised local politicians in print. The Datça prosecutor began new proceedings against him on 6 September 2002 for declaring a false address as the paper’s offices. He faced a heavy fine.
Kadriye Kanat, editor of the pro-Kurdish monthly Ozgur Kadinin Sesi, was arrested on 27 December and jailed at the Women’s and Children’s Prison in Istanbul for failing to appear in court on 15 October to be tried for "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and "helping an illegal organisation" (the PKK). The next hearing was set for 23 January 2003. She and Gulsen Bozan, the magazine’s owner, were prosecuted after publishing articles about the Kurdish question and the PKK.
Three journalists imprisoned before 2002 were freed during the year
Mehmet Kutlular, owner of the Islamist daily Yeni Asya, was released on 21 February after the amendment of article 312 of the criminal code concerning "incitement to hatred and enmity on the basis of religious discrimination" which the Ankara state security court had used to sentence him on 9 May 2000 to two years and a day in prison. He was imprisoned in Eastern Thrace on 21 May 2001. He had said the 17 August 1999 earthquake in Turkey was "a warning from heaven" in a speech at celebrations of the 39th anniversary of the death of Saidi Nursi, the inspiration for Nur sect in Turkey.
Fikret Baskaya, columnist of the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Bakis and an academic, was freed on 27 June after serving, despite the legal reforms, 16 months in prison for "separatist propaganda" (article 8 of anti-terrorist law 3713). He had been jailed on 29 June 2001 at the Kalecik prison in Ankara. On 26 January 2002, the Appeals Court confirmed his prison sentence, as well as a fine of 1,066 million Turkish pounds (855 euros), imposed by the state security court. He had written in the paper on 1 June 1999, in an article called "Is this a historic trial?" that "Turkish leaders have always regarded the Kurdish problem as a public order matter (while in fact it is a nationality problem) and have thought they could solve it by chauvinistic, racist and nationalistic policies."
Metin Yavuz, publisher of the far-left weekly Yasadigimiz Vatan, and Hatice Rüken Kiliç, the paper’s editor, were freed from prison on 1 July. Yavuz had been arrested on 8 August 2001 during a raid on the paper’s offices in Istanbul and then jailed. Police said the paper was sheltering "members of an organisation behind hunger strikes protesting against type F prisons. He had been freed on 12 November 2001 then returned to prison later with Kiliç.
17 journalists arrested
Mehmet Eren, correspondent in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir for the Kurdish magazines Dema Nû and Deng, was sentenced there on 29 January 2002 to eight months in prison for "being in possession of issues of a newspaper banned in the emergency area" (the towns of Diyarbakir, Tunceli, Sirnak and Hakkari).
Cartoonist Dogan Güzel was arrested on 11 February as he was about to fly to Spain. He was apparently detained in connection with former convictions for which he had been amnestied in 1999. He was freed the next day.
Serdar Altan, a journalist with the weekly Yedinci Gündem, was arrested on 15February at the newspaper’s offices. He was freed three hours later.
Hüseyin Alatas, owner of the pro-Kurdish magazine Newroz, was arrested in Istanbul on 28 March. He had earlier been prosecuted about 50 times, but had been amnestied. The police had failed to update their records.
Hatice Seçkin Akugur, a former journalist with the weekly Tempo, was arrested in Istanbul on 29 March while attending to administrative matters. She had been sought by police in connection with a complaint filed by the prosecutor’s office in Kocaeli for "insults in the media" stemming from a 1997 article in Tempo. The complaint had been cancelled out by the 1999 amnesty law. She was freed the next day as police had failed to update their records. She filed a complaint against the police.
Ercan Atay, of the weekly Batman Son Söz, in Batman, and correspondent of the official Anatolia News Agency (AA), was arrested on 8 April for publishing in that day’s paper a report of a demonstration against the Israeli military offensive in the West Bank towns, mentioning the distribution of leaflets announcing the protest, but also mentioning that it was illegal. He was freed after four hours. The prosecutor dropped the case the next day.
Savas Velioglu, of the far-left daily Günlük Evrensel, was arrested on 19 April at a press conference at the home of the family of a prisoner on hunger strike, despite showing his press card. He was detained for four hours at an Istanbul police station.
Ayten Akgün, editor of the pro-Kurdish weekly Yedinci Gündem, two contributors to the paper, Davut Uçar and Bisen Deli, as well as Mikail Sit, who works with the Kurdish-language weekly Azadiya Welat, were arrested on the night of 26 April before they could send the completed issue of Azadiya Welat to the printers. Police wanted to check if the material ready for printing, which had been found in the journalists’ car, contained anything illegal. They were freed the next day.
Ibrahim Yildiz, publisher of the daily Cumhuriyet, was arrested at an Ankara hotel during the night of 14-15 June and taken before a court. Police had been looking for him in connection with an article about the Halk Bankasi bank, for which he had been prosecuted in 1996 and then amnestied the following year. But police had not updated their records. He was held for 12 hours.
Asiye Zeybek Güzel, of the magazine Atilim, was arrested "by mistake" in Istanbul on 12 July because police had not updated their records after her release from prison on 5 June. She was freed the next day.
TV producer Sadettin Teksoy and his team from the privately-owned station Star TV were arrested on 16 July on their way to the western region of Bayat and accused of "insulting the state prosecutor." Two hours earlier, they had asked the prosecutor for an interview but he had refused. The journalists were freed after four hours.
Selda Yesiltepe Demir, of the privately-owned far-left radio station Anadolunun Sesi in Istanbul, was arrested on 29 July while covering the occupation of a factory by workers. She was released a few hours later. She was again arrested in Istanbul on 11 August, along with a dozen other people, in front of the home of a hunger-striker protesting against prison conditions in Turkey and wanting to draw attention to the prison suicide of his son. She was freed a few hours later.
Ahmet Kayacik, a journalist with the all-news station NTV, and his cameraman Abidin Kama were arrested on 30 December as they tried to report on a visit by Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the departmental AKP chief in Rize, Hasan Karal. They were freed soon after making a statement.
Cengiz Kapmaz, a journalist on the weekly Yedinci Gündem,and two contributors to the Kurdish weekly Azadiya Welat were attacked by police on 24 January 2002 while reporting on parents demanding at government education offices in an Istanbul neighbourhood that their children be taught in Kurdish. Kapmaz’s camera was damaged.
Freelance journalist Erdem Katirci was attacked on 28 January by three thugs who burst into the offices of the TV station Kanal 48 in the southwestern town of Marmaris where he was taking part in a broadcast. During the programme, Katirci criticised Cem Selik, a former regional tourism chief. Three people were arrested after the journalist filed a complaint.
The Diyarbakir editor of the pro-Kurdish weeklyYedinci Gündem, Devrim Göktas, was attacked in front of her home on 28 January by a stranger who called her a traitor and tried to strangle her. The attack may have been linked with the paper’s coverage of events in the Kurdish-majority southeastern region.
Teslime Tosunand and Mustafa Yigit, of the Dogan (DHA) news agency, Riza Özel, of the Anatolia News Agency(AA), and Ismet Kumascioglu, of the Bir news agency, were attacked on 2 February by supporters of Yusuf Mecek, the mayor of the Belek region in the southern province of Antalya. The camera of Tanju Iyidogan, of the all-news station NTV, was damaged. The journalists were reporting on the detention of the mayor and his associates for corruption and abuse of power.
Ali Riza Tig, correspondent of the privately-owned station ATV and owner of the regional monthly Pusula, was shot and wounded by a stranger on 10 February. The attack may have been connected with his investigation of corruption in the northern Black Sea region town of Zonguldak. A man was arrested.
Four bodyguards of agriculture minister Hüsnü Yusuf Gökalp, of the far-right National Movement Party, who was visiting the Anatolian town of Sivas on 23 May, beat photographer Eraydin Aytekin, of the Dogan (DHA) news agency, who had taken pictures of the minister taking some medicine. The journalist filed a complaint with the local prosecutor.
Murat Kibritoglu, of the DHA news agency, andAli Öztunç, of the privately-owned TV station Kanal D, were attacked by aides of deputy prime minister Devlet Bahceli during a visit to the town of Nigde on 23 May. Local police chief Atalay Sönmez, who was present, insulted Ali Öztunç, who complained that police had not stopped the attack.
Hincal Uluc, columnist with the daily Sabah and football commentator for the all-news station NTV,was attacked by a thug in an Istanbul restaurant on 5 June. The attack may have been linked with an editorial about football that appeared in the paper.
Miyase Ilknur and Kaan Saganak, of the daily Cumhuriyet, were attacked by four thugs in Istanbul on 24 July as they were filming a building belonging to the Suleiman sect, which had been put up without permission.
Harun Demirkaya, candidate of the Democratic Left Party in the scheduled 3November elections, burst into the offices of the newspaper Yeni Gebze on 15 August, tore up copies of the paper and attacked the paper’s owner, Ismail Kahraman, and commentator Yilmaz Isik, who he accused of criticising him in that day’s paper.
Gunmen fired several shots at the home and vehicle of Ahmet Altintas, of the Cihan (CHA) news agency in the southeastern town of Siverek on the night of 21 August. An enquiry was launched. Altintas said he had not had threats and did not know who fired the shots.
Yasar Ozen, of the daily paper Sabah, in the southeastern town of Antep, was attacked on 1 September as he left the congress of the True Path Party by two men who then fled. The journalist, who had facial injuries, had written two articles a few days earlier criticising the party’s actions in the region in the run-up to the 3November elections.
Turgay Guler, of the Islamist TV station Kanal 7, and cameraman Sinan Sariyar were roughed up on 28 October by bodyguards of Cem Uzan, a candidate of the Youth Party and head of the Uzan media group, and then escorted away from where the candidate was due to speak.
Security forces beat and kicked Tuna Cam, of the regional daily Olay, Ahmet Akhan and Umut Tutuncu, of the local paper Hakimiyet, Erdogan Pacin, of the Dogan (DHA) news agency, and Huseyin Yesilkavak, of the official Anatolia News Agency, in the northwestern town of Bursa on 1 November. They were trying to reach a square where moderate Islamist candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to give a speech.
Hikmet Tekemen, a cameraman with the station Star TV, and freelance journalist Ceren Korkmaz were attacked and insulted by security guards of the firm Insel Tanitim when they arrived at the Feshane Festival in Istanbul on 26 November. Tekemen was hit and the team’s camera was damaged.
Mehmet Sah Ayaz, editor of the Batman Ekspress, in the southeastern town of Batman, was attacked outside his home by three thugs on 10 December. He said he thought the attack was ordered by businessman Muzaffer Nasiroglu and filed a complaint against the attackers. Ayaz had campaigned against the building of a power plant in the town.
Mansur Obut, owner of the local paper GAP, was attacked and seriously injured by two thugs in his shop in Batman on 21 December. The journalist, who filed a complaint, had written about the environment and campaigned against the building of a local power plant.
Metin Münir, columnist with the daily paper Sabah, received e-mailed death threats in early March 2002 that may have been to do with his pro-European articles and his correspondence with Karen Fogg, the former European Union representative in Ankara, as part of the debate between nationalists and those who favour Turkey joining the EU.
Phone and e-mail threats were sent in early April to the satirical weekly Leman after it published a cartoon by Mehmet Cagcag on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The head of the Gold Mining Company, Ismet Sivrioglu, made threats against the far-left daily Gunluk Evrensel on 14 November, calling on his workers to "attack people reading or distributing it." The paper had supported the inhabitants of the western town of Bergama in their fight against the company, which they accused of polluting the environment and causing health problems.
Pressure and obstruction
Police raided the offices of the Istanbul Islamist daily Yeni Safak on 5 January 2002 and watched the entrance of the paper for several hours. The official reason for the operation was an alleged anonymous call to the police accusing the paper’s owners, the Albayrak group, of corruption. Police did not get a mandate for the search until two hours after it had begun. Editor Selahattin Sadikoglu filed a complaint. He said the raid may have been due to articles in the paper about corruption networks.
The Istanbul station Açik Radyo went off the air for two weeks from 14 January on the orders of the National Broadcasting Council (RTÜK) for broadcasting an extract in September 2000 from American writer Charles Bukowski’s poem "The Most Beautiful Girl in Town," which the RTÜK said was "morally offensive and undermined public peace and Turkish family life."
Fikret Ilkiz, editor of the daily Cumhuriyet, was acquitted on 22 January by an Istanbul court for insulting the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk. The paper had quoted an extract from a book by Emin Deger (who was also accused), "Portrait of an enemy of the republic," which quoted criticism of Atatürk by Fethullah Gülen, the head of a religious group.
Journalists Gunnar Köhne and Gönül Kivilcim were kept under constant surveillance and followed between 10 and 18 January while doing a report for the French-German TV station Arte about the marriage of very young girls in the southwestern town of Aydin and the area around Diyarbakir, in the southeast.
The pro-Kurdish weeklyYedinci Gündem was ordered closed for two weeks on 25 January by the Istanbul state security court for an article on 25 August 2001 quoting a leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The paper’s owner, Hidir Ates, was fined 4 billion Turkish pounds (2,500 euros) and editor Hünkar Demirel 2 billion (1 500 euros) for "publishing the statements of a terrorist organisation."
On 29 January, a court in Eyüp (Istanbul) banned publication of photos or articles about the firm Lonca, at the request of the company, which was under investigation for losing money for the Istanbul Natural Gas Company. The 1 February issue of the daily Cumhuriyet appeared with its front page blank except for the word "banned."
Coskun Ak, moderator of the Internet website forum Superonline, was fined in February for "insulting and mocking state institutions." He had been sentenced to three years and four months in prison on 23 March 2000 for not removing from the forum a message about human rights violations in Turkey. The sentence was cancelled on 14 November 2001 by the Appeals Court, which called for a more thorough enquiry.
Parliament approved amendments on 6February to articles 159 and 312 of the criminal code and articles 7 and 8 of the anti-terrorist law. The definition of the crime of "insulting the state and its institutions" (article 159 of the criminal code) was not changed but the prison sentence was reduced from six to three years. Article 312 of the criminal code punishing "incitement to hatred on the basis of class, race, religion, sect or region" was also amended so that only incitement that "could endanger public order" was to be punished. But a new criminal offence was introduced of "insults denigrating a section of the population that in some way undermine human dignity," punishable by between six months and two years in prison.
The changes to the anti-terrorist law reduced bans on TV and radio broadcasts from two weeks to one, but new offences of "pictorial propaganda" and "propaganda about (terrorist) organisations and encouraging the use of terrorist methods" were introduced. Minimum fines for editors convicted of "terrorist propaganda" were sharply increased, from 100 million to 3 billion Turkish pounds (from 60 to 1,800 euros).
On 6 February, the RTÜK ordered the station NTV to go off the air for a day for broadcasting a programme called "Behind closed doors," in which a journalist criticised members of parliament. The station was foundguiltyof"mockingand defaming state officials and institutions."
Also on 6 February, a station in Adana, Arkadas Radyo, was suspended for a year for broadcasting an opposition song and inviting listeners to attend an event banned by the prefect. The station was found guilty of broadcasting material likely to "incite racial discrimination, terror and violence and stir up feelings of hatred in the society" (Law 3984 concerning the RTÜK).
The Ankara station Imaj Radyo was suspended on 6 February for 90 days for broadcasting on 2 and 3 August 2001 a music programme during which a speaker said the government punished anyone who criticised a country "with a single language, nation and flag."
The station Radyo Baris was punished on 6 February for violating article 26 of Law 3984 on retransmission by relaying Turkish-language news from the station Deutsche Welle.
The RTÜK said on 7 February that the radio station Gün FM in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir had been suspended for a year for programmes likely to "incite racial discrimination, terror and violence and stir up feelings of hatred in the society." The station had broadcast Kurdish-language songs between 4 and 19 November 2001.
The station Radyo Shema was suspended for a day on 8 February for allegedly making "propaganda for the Christian religion" between 6 and 31 December 2001 and "undermining loyalty, impartiality and the principle of respect for the law."
The radio stations Özgur Radyo in Ankara, Gün FM in Diyarbakir and NRT in the southeastern town of Gaziantep were suspended for a day on 8 February for broadcasting songs in the Kurdish language, thus violating the ban on using the language (Law 3984 concerning the RTÜK).
The station Gün TV was banned for a year on 12 February for putting out "separatist propaganda" (article 8 of the anti-terrorist law) by broadcasting songs in Kurdish and Armenian in August 2001. The ban was reversed on 29 March because the court said the Kurdish songs were not "separatist."
The 12 February issue of the far-left daily Gunluk Evrensel was seized by order of the Istanbul state security court for making "propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party" (Law 5680 concerning the press), by printing an article about PKK policies.
Ugur Dündar, presenter of the investigation programme "Arena" on the privately-owned station ATV, resigned in March after censorship of one of his programmes about the activities of the brother of Mesut Yilmaz, head of the Motherland Party (ANAP). The party reportedly asked the station not to broadcast it.
In early March, Ahmet Tezcan, founder of the media criticism Internet website Media Fourth Estate, was fined 2 billion Turkish pounds (1,300 euros) for libel after publishing a few days earlier a photo-montage featuring the chief of the Dogan press group, Aydin Dogan, and an army commander.
The RTÜK ordered in early March a week-long suspension of the station Günes TV in the southeastern town of Malatya after it broadcast remarks considered "insulting to members of parliament."
Fehmi Koru, a columnist for the Islamist daily Yeni Safak, was cleared on 6March by the Istanbul state security court of "incitement to hatred and enmity through discrimination by religion or sect" in remarks he made about an earthquake on 17 August 1999. They had been broadcast by the Islamist TV station Kanal 7 more than two months after the quake.
The March issue of the quarterly magazine Idea Politika was seized by the Istanbul prosecutor for "mocking and insulting the ideal of government, the republic and the armed forces" by showing on its front page photos of Gen. Kenan Evren, head of the armed forces at the time of the 12 September 1980 military coup, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet with the caption "Crime against democracy, crime against humanity."
Journalists on the Islamist daily Yeni Asya were convicted on 11 March for "incitement to hatred and enmity through religious discrimination (article 312 of the criminal code) for articles about the 17 August 1999 earthquake. Prisons terms were imposed on publisher Kazim Güleçyüz (one year and eight months), editor Mustafa Döküler (two years and one month) and on journalists Cevher Ilhan (two years and one month), Ali Fersadoglu, Mustafa Özcan and Sevki Akgünler (each one year, 11 months and 10 days). The sentences were suspended and Döküler’s was commuted to a fine of 1.5 billion Turkish pounds (1 000 euros).
On 13 March, the RTÜK suspended the station Ses Radyo for two weeks and Özgur Radyo for a day for broadcasting Kurdish-language songs.
Also on 13 March, the radio station Özel FM was suspended for 180 days for "incitement to violence, terror and racial discrimination and stirring up hatred in society" for accusing the education system of "spoiling a whole generation " and calling on listeners to switch to a Koranic education.
Nevzat Bingöl, owner of Gün TV, and Melike Irmak, a presenter on the radio station Gün FM, in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir, were accused on 14 March of encouraging people on 31 October 2001 to "disobey the law." Irmak allegedly invited listeners to demonstrate outside the radio’s offices against the station’s suspension on 15 October.
A former columnist for the daily Sabah,Ali Bayramoglu, and the paper’s editor, Semra Uncu, were acquitted on 22 March of "mocking and insulting the armed forces" (article 159 of the criminal code) in two articles published in 2001.
An Istanbul court tried Erol Ozkoray, former editor of the quarterly magazine Idea Politika on 5 April for "insulting the army and the republic" (article159 of the criminal code) in articles (also reproduced on the magazine’s website) in 2001 about the Kurdish problem and the role of the armed forces in national political life. The magazine did not appear after June and six lawsuits were under way against Ozkoray, who was facing up to 40 years in prison.
On 17 April, the RTÜK suspended the all-news station CNN Türk for a day for re-broadcasting on 27 January remarks made at a conference by Resul Akay, head of the Turkish public employees union (Kamu-Sen) who was also working as an expert in the RTÜK’s monitoring office in Ankara. The RTÜK said his remarks contravened the ban on "excessive criticism and humiliating and defamatory remarks" (Law 3984 concerning the RTÜK).
Parliament amended the media laws on 15 May to impose heavy fines for broadcasts "undermining the existence and independence of the republic, the state’s national and territorial integrity and the reforms and ideals of Atatürk" and "inciting the community to violence, terror or racial discrimination." The composition of the RTÜK was changed, strengthening government control of it. The range of banned material was extended to broadcasts encouraging "pessimism" and "despair." Strict censorship of Internet content was imposed, with webpages to be officially approved before being posted and introduction of punishment for putting false news online. In response to a request by President Sezer to cancel the law as being anti-democratic, the constitutional court ordered some provisions to be suspended in June, but most remained in force.
Mine Cevik, editor of the English-language Turkish Daily News, and Burak Bekdil, a columnist on the paper, were convicted on 17 May by the Ankara assizes court of "mocking and insulting the legal system" in an article on 28 August 2001. Cevik was first sentenced to a year in prison, but this was reduced to 10 months because of her "good behaviour" in court. She was also given a suspended fine of 1,000 euros. Bekdil was given a suspended prison sentence of a year and eight months for writing the offending article, after first being sentenced to two years imprisonment.
Nese Düzel (journalist) and Hasan Cakkalkurt (editor), of the daily paper Radikal, were tried on 22 May by the Istanbul state security court for respectively writing and publishing a report that appeared on 8 January 2001 about the social problems of young members of the Alevi Muslim minority and criticising government policy towards them. They were accused of "inciting hatred" (article 312 of the criminal code) and risked up to three years in prison.
Legal action was started on 27 May against Murat Ayaz, owner of the Batman Ekspress, and its editor, Mehmet Sah Ayaz, for allegedly insulting Batman prefect Isa Parlak and criticising how he ran the region in articles on 1 October 2001 and on 13 and 20 May 2002.
The quarterly cultural, artistic and literary magazine Güney was ordered on 3June to suspend work for a week and its editor, Ilyas Emir, was sentenced to three years in prison commuted to a fine of 6.5billion Turkish pounds (4,000 euros) for "helping an illegal organisation." The magazine had published articles in January 2001 criticising police operations in prisons that led in December 2000 to the death of dozens of political prisoners and two policemen.
The first issue of the fortnightly Sanat ve Hayat was seized on 14 June and accused of "separatist propaganda" because of two articles by journalists Haluk Gerger and Muhsin Kizilkaya that included the expressions "Kurdish resistance," "Kurdish people" and "Kurdish movements."
Nese Düzel, of the daily Radikal and author of a book called "The Hidden Face of Turkey," and Osman Nihat Tuna, head of the firm that published it, were acquitted on 20 June of "inciting hatred." The book was a collection of articles that had appeared in the paper.
Güler Yildiz, editor of the weekly Cinar, in the southern town on Mersin, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined 600 million Turkish pounds (400 euros) on 24 June. She had been convicted on 21 June 2001 for "mocking and insulting institutions" (article 159 of the criminal code) by publishing an article about the "The Book of Mehmet," written by journalist Nadire Mater. The Appeals Court had quashed the sentence She once more filed an appeal.
Mehmet Aslanoglu, head of the Diyarbakir bureau of the daily Günlük Evrensel, and Mazlum Özdemir and Mehmet Samur, of the pro-Kurdish news agency Dicle, were barred on 27 June from covering a meeting about human rights in Diyarbakir featuring the secretary of state for human rights and the ministers of the interior and justice. They were refused entry on grounds that the paper and the agency were "not impartial or credible."
The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey on 9 July for violating the freedom of expression of Seher Karatas, publisher and editor of the magazine Gençligin Sesi, who had printed an article in July 1994 calling on young people to show solidarity with the working class and denouncing a system she said was unstable and crisis-ridden. She was accused of "incitement to hatred and enmity" and sentenced in July 1995 by the state security court to a year and eight months in prison, later commuted to a heavy fine.
Writer and journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak was given a suspended 20-month prison sentence on 10 July by the Istanbul state security court for "inciting hatred and enmity on the basis of religious discrimination" (article 312 of the criminal code) in the 23 June 2000 issue of the Islamist weekly Cuma in which he protested about the closure of Koranic study classes.
The pro-Kurdish weekly Yedinci Gündem was suspended for two weeks on 15July and its main shareholder, Hidir Ates, and editor Hünkar Demirel were fined respectively 4 billion Turkish pounds (2,500 euros) and 2 billion (1,300 euros) for publishing "the statements of a terrorist organisation," by quoting Cemil Bayik, a leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in its 23 August 2001 issue.
Murat Erdin, of the privately-owned TV station CNN Türk, Muzaffer Özkurt, of the left-wing daily Günlük Evrensel, Hamza Aktan, of the Internet website bianet.org, and Bircan Degirmenci, of the station Özgür Radyo, were barred on 24July from entering the premises of the firm Pasabahçe, in Beykoz (Istanbul), which was occupied by its workers.
Parliament approved new amendments to the media laws on 2 August. Broadcasts in "different languages and dialects traditionally used by Turkish citizens in their daily life" were now permitted. But an amendment confirmed restrictions on broadcasts "contravening the basic principals of the republic and the indivisible unity of the state." The ban on broadcasts encouraging "pessimism" and "despair," introduced in May, was abolished. The retransmission of foreign broadcasts became legal.
Article 159 of the criminal code, punishing "insults to the state and its institutions and threats to the indivisible unity of the republic" was amended so that criticism of state institutions was only punishable if it specifically aimed to "insult" or "ridicule" them. Prison terms contained in the press law were abolished, but replaced with fines of up to 100 billion Turkish pounds (62,500euros). On 14 August, President Sezer asked the constitutional court to strike down the amendments which provided for disproportionate fines that he said "threatened press freedom and the right to be informed." The amendments remain in force until the court gives its opinion.
The Istanbul station Özgur Radyo suspended its broadcasts for six months on 5August in line with a 7 December 2000 decision by the RTÜK, which had accused it of criticising Rauf Denktash, president of the Turkish-backed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, on 24 July 2000.
Saban Dogen, Sami Cebeci and Abdil Yildirim, of Yeni Asya, were sentenced to 20 months in prison on 2 September for "inciting hatred and enmity based on religious discrimination" (article 312 of the criminal code) in articles about the 17August 1999 earthquake, which they had called a "warning from heaven." They filed an appeal.
Distribution of the new pro-Kurdish daily Yeniden Ozgur Gundem was banned on 9 September in Diyarbakir and Sirnak, in southeastern Anatolia, that were under a state of emergency. A few days before, the paper had published an article by the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan.
The Istanbul state security court on 24September further reduced a two-year prison sentence on Nizammettin Bilgiç, editor of the left-wing daily Günlük Evrensel, which had already been cut to a year and eight months for mitigating circumstances, to a fine of 4.4 billion Turkish pounds (3,000 euros). He had been convicted of "inciting hatred and enmity on the basis of religious and regional discrimination" (article 312 of the criminal code) in an article on 20 January headed "The Kurdish question is a problem for all workers." The paper was also ordered to suspend its activities for a week for "undermining national security."
Mehmet Sevket Eygi, columnist of the Islamic daily Milli Gazete, and the paper’s editor, Selami Caliskan, were each sentenced on 9 October to 20 months in prison for an article on 15 November 2000 called "The terror of religious enmity," which was allegedly an "incitement to hatred and enmity on the basis of religious discrimination" (article 312 of the criminal code). Caliskan’s prison term was commuted to a fine of 1,840,410,000 Turkish pounds (1,000 euros). The court ordered the paper suspended for three days. The journalists filed an appeal.
Erol Ozkoray, former editor of the magazine Idea Politika, and Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard were prosecuted on 11 October by an Istanbul court for "insulting the army and the republic" (article 159 of the criminal code). In an interview in the December 2001-February 2002 issue, Ménard had called the Turkish authorities "schizophrenic." The two journalists each faced six years in prison. The next hearing was set for 28 May 2003.
In mid-October, two trials began of Adnan Keskin, a legal affairs reporter on the daily paper Radikal, for an article in which he had criticised former state security court prosecutor Nuh Mete Yuksel for prosecuting a group of academics who called for teaching in the Kurdish language. Keskin was accused of publishing material "before the charges had been formally read out in court" and "making prosecutor Yuksel the target of terrorist organisations." He risks a six-month jail sentence and heavy fines.
Asiye Zeybek Güzel, of the far-left weekly Atilim, was sentenced on 16 October to 12 and a half years in prison for "belonging to the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP)." She had been arrested at her home on 22 February 1997 and taken to the anti-terrorist section at state security headquarters in Istanbul, where was reportedly tortured and raped. She had been conditionally released on 5 June 2002. She appealed to the European Court of Human Rights after rape charges against the police were dismissed.
Sakine Yalçin, editor of the far-left weekly Alinteri, was sentenced on 22 October to 15 days in prison, commuted to a fine, for "insulting and mocking the country’s laws" (article 159 of the criminal code) in a 12 February 2001 article called "The fascist constitution, a legacy of 12September."
Ahmet Altan, columnist of the liberal weekly Aktüel, and its editor, Murat Tunali, were cleared on 15 November of "mocking and insulting the armed forces" (article 159 of the criminal code) in two articles on 22 July 2000 and 22 February 2001. Altan was also accused of "collaborating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party" (PKK) by publishing and criticising a confidential army document (headed "Andiç") in 1998 in two articles, on 9 November and 14 December 2000, called "Try these generals and publicise these writers" and "Turkish generals, get back to your barracks."
Hulusi Erdem, columnist of the newspaper Onder, in the southwestern town of Milas, and its editor, Kazim Sener, were each sentenced on 19 November to three and a half years in prison and a fine for libelling former justice minister Hikmet Sami Turk in an article on 14 August 2001. The court commuted the jail terms to suspended fines of 665 million Turkish pounds (400 euros).
The trial of Dogan Özgüden, editor of the Internet news website Info-Türk, freelance journalist Emin Karaca and Mehmet Emin Sert, publisher of the magazine Türkiye’de ve Avrupa’da Yazin, opened before an Istanbul criminal court on 26November. The prosecution asked for a maximum prison sentence of six years for Özgüden and Karaca for articles in the April issue of the magazine about the 30th anniversary of the execution of three left-wing youth leaders. Sert faced a heavy fine for publishing the articles.