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Turks: Turkish Media in Dark

ABUSES: Turkish Media In Dark


Contact: Yalman Onaran, ext.101


NEW YORK, April 17 -- Turkey's Prime Minister Tansu Ciller will be making her rounds among the press corps in New York and Washington on Tuesday in an attempt to explain her country's recent incursion in northern Iraq. Back home, more than 70 journalists are in jail for their writings, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Numerous alternative publications have been shut down for their unorthodox views. Foreign press corps are restricted in their movements in the region.

On Tuesday, Ciller is scheduled to meet Peter Jennings of ABC News, Robert MacNeil of PBS, and the editorial boards of The New York Times and Time magazine. Afterwards, she will travel to Washington to meet with the editorial boards of the Washington Post, Washington Times, and Newsweek, and to appear on CNN. She is expected to explain her government's reasons for the three-week old military operation in Iraq, which is part of an effort by the Ciller government to eradicate the Kurdish insurgence.

According to CPJ, the Turkish government's crackdown on independent press coverage of Kurdish separatism has made it impossible for local media to present complete and balanced accounts of the conflict. Turkish authorities were holding 74 Turkish journalists in jail at the end of 1994 on charges that their reporting was favorable to the separatist cause. Scores of local publications have been hit by fines and other legal sanctions for the same reason.

The offices of the new pro-Kurdish newspaper, Yeni Politika, were raided last week before it published its first issue. Six journalists were detained for three days. The inaugural issue was confiscated by the authorities for alleged "separatist propaganda," a crime punishable by up to three years of imprisonment of the editor in charge, under Turkey's infamous Anti-Terror Law. Yasar Kemal, Turkey's most acclaimed author internationally, was recently charged under this law for an article he wrote for the German magazine Der Spiegel. He faces six months to three years in jail if convicted.

"Prime Minister Ciller has repeatedly said that it is time to `take steps to improve [the] shortcomings' of Turkish democracy, but her government hasn't done anything about it," said William A. Orme, CPJ's executive director. "She has talked about amending the Anti-terror law `to remove anomalies which unduly restrict certain forms of expression' and declaring an amnesty for prisoners of thought. Her coalition partners said Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law which criminalizes expression should be removed all together. However, no progress can be cited on any of these promises." CPJ requested a meeting with Prime Minister Ciller during her visit to New York but was not granted one.

International media are denied full access to observe the Turkish military incursion in northern Iraq. Foreign correspondents who are not permamently based in Turkey are not allowed to cross the Turkish border into Iraq on their own. They are escorted in and out of the region by the Turkish military, hampering their ability to gather news independently. Many American and European correspondents have complained about the restriction, calling it an attempt to deny full media access to the Turkish operation.


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