Thursday, August 10, 2006

Court Re-Opens Kurdish Daily After Closure

Pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem daily reopenes with the same court decision who last week ruled the newspaper's closure under the new anti-terror law. Daily to appear on stands tomorrow but Turkey's media remains under threat unless restrictive articles removed.

BIA News Center
09/08/2006 Erol ONDEROGLU

BİA (Istanbul) - The Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court that on August 4 ruled for a 15-day closure of the pro-Kurdish "Ulkede Ozgur Gundem" newspaper on grounds that it was involved in continuous propaganda for an armed terror organization, has re-opened the daily after 5 days of suspension following an appeal made by its lawyers.

The Court evaluated the appeal made by Gundem's lawyers Ozcan Kilic and Inan Akmese, concluding that the recent 15-day print ban imposed on the newspaper on request of the Public Prosecutor's Office, as the first implementation of controversial articles of Turkey's new Anti-Terror Law (TMY), was in fact a violation of article 28 of the Constitution.

Recalling that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had applied to the Constitutional Court for the articles cited as reason for the newspaper's closure to be annulled, the court's decision to allow for Gundem to continue to print was relayed to the newspaper Tuesday night.

Ulkede Ozur Gundem's News Editor Nurettin Firat regarded the decision with cautious optimism, noting that the five day episode once again showed the initial decision taken against the newspaper was unwarranted and there was an arbitrary justice system in Turkey.

Firat announced that the newspaper would re-appear at the news stands as of August 10, Thursday. He told bianet, however, that they would still take legal action due to the five days they were suspended from print.

Continuing threat

Despite the reversal of court orders in Gundem's case, unless articles 5 and 6 of the TMY are annulled as requested by President Sezer in his application to the Constitutional Court last week, these restrictive articles of the law will continue to threaten media freedoms in Turkey.

These articles of the TMY, one of which was used to close down Ulkede Ozgur Gundem in the recent court order, seriously limit the media's coverage of terrorism and terror related human rights issues including alleged or reported violations of rights.

The article that led to Gundem's closure covers "publications openly encouraging the commission of crimes in the scope of the activities of a terror organization, praising committed crimes and criminals or containing terror organization propaganda" and allows for Public Prosecutors to issue orders in instances where delays need to be avoided, to suspend the said publication from 15 days up to a month.

It states that the prosecutor will inform a court of the temporary and preventative closure decision within 24 hours and if the decision is not ratified by the court in 48 hours, the suspension will be void.

The other article Sezer has taken to court to be annulled foresee the fining of owners and editors of publications for offences in the publication involving "disclosure of the identities of public officials involved in the counter terrorism struggle" and "publishing the communiqués and statements of terror organizations" whether or not they have taken part in the offence. (EO/II/YE)