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Spain23 July 2003

Closure of Basque newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria extended by six months

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Spanish authorities to allow the Basque-language newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria to reopen after a national court judge on 21 July ordered a six-month extension to the "preventive measures" that have kept the newspaper closed since February because the group that publishes it is suspected of "belonging to or cooperating with the terrorist organisation ETA."

"We reiterate our opposition to the closure, even provisional, of the newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria as long the courts have not yet reached a decision on the substance of this case," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in letter to Spanish justice minister José-Maria Michavila.

"This measure deprives readers of their right to news," Médard said. Voicing concern about the application of "preventive measures" against a newspaper, Médard said Euskaldunon Egunkaria should be allowed to reopen during the entire judicial proceedings.

On the grounds that the Euskaldunon Egunkaria group pursues the same goals as the separatist group ETA and helps to reinforce its terrorist cells by creating dummy companies, judge Juan del Olmo extended the existing preventive measures consisting of freezing its assets, suspending its activities and closing the premises of Egunkaria SA, Egunkaria Sortzen SL and the newspaper’s editorial office.

Police on 20 February arrest 10 Euskaldunon Egunkaria journalists and members of its board, while the judge ordered the newspaper’s closure. The next day, the Egunkaria team launched Egunero, a new Basque-language newspaper with "Closed but not silent" as its banner. Two members of the Egunkaria board, Iñaki Uria and Xavier Oleaga, are still in prison.

The Basque daily Egin and the radio station Egin-Irratia were provisionally closed in July 1998 on the orders of investigating judge Baltasar Garzón as part of a crackdown on the networks that finance ETA.

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