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Another trial against Kurdish minority publication

Another trial against Kurdish minority publication
In a trial due to begin on September 30 before an Istanbul assizes court, Mehmet Güler (above) and Ragip Zarakolu are facing at least eight months in prison if convicted on charges of “publishing PKK statements” and “PKK propaganda.” Published by Editions Belges and titled 'The KCK File: Global State and Kurds without a State', the book was immediately confiscated and banned when made available at a book fair in the city of Diyarbakir in May.Photo: hurriyetdailynews.com

The department of public prosecution has brought new charges against Kurdish writer Mehmet Güler and publisher Ragip Zarakolu. This time they are to be prosecuted for a book about the political system that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) would like to introduce, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has reported.

In a trial due to begin on September 30 before an Istanbul assizes court, Güler and Zarakolu are facing at least eight months in prison if convicted on charges of “publishing PKK statements” and “PKK propaganda.” The PKK has been waging an armed struggle for Kurdish independence since 1984 and is on a government list of terrorist organisations.

Published by Editions Belges and titled The KCK File: Global State and Kurds without a State, the book was immediately confiscated and banned when it was made available at a book fair in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir in May. “KCK” are the initials of the “democratic confederalism” that the PKK proposes for Turkey.

Prosecutor Hakan Karaali is bringing his case under articles 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which has been used to prosecute many Kurdish journalists and news media, and to impose long jail terms.

Zarakolu said he published the book in order to satisfy “the right of readers to information” and to present “an alternative version of the facts.” Güler said he “avoided using language that is to anyone's benefit or detriment.” The author added, “The Kurdish political parties are banned. Former ministers, intellectuals, human rights activists and lawyers are jailed. Citizens have a right to know what is going on. I wrote this book in an entirely objective manner.”

Güler and Zarakolu have just been tried before another Istanbul court of assizes in connection with an earlier book, titled Decisions harder to take than death. The court acquitted Zarakolu but sentenced Güler to 15 months in prison on June 10 on a charge of PKK propaganda.

RSF is worried about the situation of press freedom and media in Turkey amid mounting judicial harassment of journalists, especially those working for Kurdish media. It particularly concerned about new resolutions regarding TV news broadcasts that the government adopted on July 15.

Interior minister Besir Atalay announced that the Radio and TV Supreme Council had decided, in agreement with national TV station executives, that “certain principles must be followed in situations of terrorist risk and other extraordinary circumstances.” Under these “principles,” TV stations undertake to limit the length and frequency of news flashes.

Another resolution, which has all the hallmarks of a veiled warned to the media, stressed that TV executives had a duty to avoid broadcasting “programmes, interviews or statements that appear to justify terrorist actions or are likely to be interpreted as propaganda on behalf of the people responsible for attacks or as encouraging future attacks.”

The interior minister hailed “these very decisive positions regarding terrorism” but the Contemporary Association of Journalists has warned that they are “likely to result in abuses.”

RSF fears that the vague working of these resolutions will be open to different interpretations and will encourage TV stations to censor themselves. Combined with the Anti-Terrorism Law, they could provide the authorities with new grounds for arbitrary arrests and prosecutions.

Date posted: August 3, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 169