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Turkey23 December 2003

Journalist who criticised the army arrested at Istanbul airport

Reporters Without Borders has condemned legal harassment of the former editor of the magazine Idea Politika, Erol Ozkoray, who was arrested on arrival from Paris at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul on 22 December. The journalist, who is facing legal proceedings in a number of press cases, was released the following day.

Oskoray’s trouble with the law stems from having criticised the army and raising a variety of taboo subjects in his articles, such as the Kurdish question.

The international press freedom organisation considers that the arrest contravenes the authorities’ commitment to stop abusive actions against journalists who are accused of mocking or insulting state institutions.

An arrest warrant was issued against Oskoray on 14 November 2003 in connection with an article critical of the army headlined, "What is the army for?" published in autumn 2001. That edition of the magazine was seized and its publication banned by the Justice Ministry, at the request of the then armed forces chief of staff. Idea Politika has not been published since June 2002. The next hearing date in the trial has been fixed for 29 December 2003.

The journalist also faces proceedings in five other press cases over articles in which he raised the Kurdish question and the role of the army in the country’s political life, published both in Idea Politika and on the Internet site of the same name. He risks up to 30 years in prison.

In the framework of legislative reforms adopted in 2002, Article 159 of the criminal code, that had often been used against journalists, was amended. The current law nevertheless allows plenty of scope for interpretation by individual judges, who are free to assess to what extent a journalist’s criticism aims to intentionally ridicule or insult state institutions.

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