RSF: Journalists Continue To Be Threatened and Prosecuted

Reporters without borders (press release), France
Jan 30 2007

Despite reassuring statements from government officials, journalists
continue to be threatened and prosecuted

Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call for the repeal of
article 301 of the criminal code punishing attacks on the Turkish
identity, as the country continued to be abuzz with protests and
reactions to the 19 January murder of newspaper editor Hrant Dink,
whose funeral on 23 January drew 100,000 mourners.

The editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, Dink had
been convicted under article 301 and was facing another prosecution
under the same article at the time of his death. Foreign minister
Abdullah Gül has said the article is clearly problematic and that
changes need to be made. While supporting his comments, Reporters
Without Borders believes the article should be completely repealed.

Gül’s comment is not the first. Last November, a European Union
commission that is monitoring Turkey’s progress towards joining the
EU stressed that: `Article 301 and other provisions of the Turkish
penal code that restrict freedom of expression need to be brought in
line with the European Convention of Human Rights.’ Anticipating the
commission’s comments, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had
already appealed to civil society to suggest how the article could be

`Despite that, nothing concrete has so far been initiated and for
this reason, we would like to stress today that promises are not
enough,’ Reporters Without Borders said today.

A person who has confessed to being one of the instigators of Dink’s
murder, Yasin Hayal, uttered threats against Nobel literature
laureate Orhan Pamuk when he was brought before an Istanbul court
last week. Ogün Samast, the 17-year-old youth who fired the shots
that killed Dink, told police when first questioned that he `felt no
remorse.’ He said Dink had deserved to die for insulting the Turkish

Nationalism was the driving force behind Dink’s murder and it
continues to fuel threats against journalists. Agos contributors
requested, and obtained, police protection after getting death
threats in an e-mail message signed by the Turkish Brigades for
Revenge (TIT). It was a TIT member, Semih Tufan Günalthay, who
ordered the 1998 murder of Akin Birdal, Turkey’s leading human rights
activist. At least six journalists and writers are currently getting
police protection.

A 36-year-old ex-soldier yesterday surrendered to the police after
threatening to blow up a ferry in northwestern Turkey in protest
against the pro-Armenian slogans chanted at Dink’s funeral. The man,
who was carrying a very powerful kind of explosive known as C4,
unfurled a Turkish flag over the ferry and announced that: `I did it
for Turkey.’ The daily newspaper Tercuman said on 26 January that
those who were not proud of being Turkish should leave the country.

Although the repeal of article 301 is now being widely discussed,
journalists are still being prosecuted under it. They include Umur
Hozatli, who is being prosecuted over two articles published last
September in which he criticised a police raid on the premises of
Özgür Radio and the leftist weekly Atilim and accused the police of
`cooperating with certain judges to illegally imprison people
regarded as separatists or terrorists.’

Last November, Reporters Without Borders noted that at least 65
people, including many journalists and writers, had been prosecuted
under article 301 since its adoption as part of the new criminal code
in June 2005.

Six people have so far been charged in connection with Dink’s murder.
Samast is charged with shooting Dink. Hayal is accused of being one
of the instigators. Ahmet Iskender, Ersin Yolcu, Zeynel Abidin Yavuz
and Erhan Tucel, are also charged with inciting the murder. Tucel is
a student who supports a national group in Trabzon, Samast’s home

Dink was killed by several shots fired at him outside the Istanbul
offices of Agos, for which he wrote columns as well as being the
editor. A well-known journalist and one who was respected by his
colleagues, Dink had been the target of several prosecutions over his
views on the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman empire. In 2005,
he received six-month suspended sentence for `humiliating Turkish
identity.’ He was prosecuted again in September 2006 over an
interview he gave to Reuters in which he referred to the massacres in
Anatolia during the First World War as `genocide.’ He had been facing
a possible three-year prison sentence.


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