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Kurdish journalist serving 166-year jail term wins press freedom prize in Turkey

Kurdish journalist serving 166-year jail term wins press freedom prize in Turkey
Never-ending sentence: Vedat Kursun's case is typical of the way Turkey's Anti-Terrorism Law is being abused, reacted Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). It allows the courts to hound Kurdish journalists, sentence them to long jail terms and create a repressive environment for the Kurdish media.

A former Kurdish editor who has been held since January 30, 2009 and sentenced to a total of 166 years in prison with 30-odd cases, has been awarded a Journalists Association of Turkey press freedom prize. on 24 July. Vedat Kursun is former editor of Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat.

Receiving the award on Kursun's behalf on July 24, his father said, “To Turkish and international public opinion, I say: ‘Defend everyone's right to freedom of thought.' Today, unfortunately, this prize is going to prison.”

Kursun's case is typical of the way Turkey's Anti-Terrorism Law is being abused, reacted Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). It allows the courts to hound Kurdish journalists, sentence them to long jail terms and create a repressive environment for the Kurdish media.

It was used to sentence Irfan Aktan, the editor of the fortnightly Express, to 15 months in jail on June 4 on a charge of publishing propaganda on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Aktan was also awarded a Journalists Association of Turkey prize on July 24.

The only Kurdish-language daily, Azadiya Welat has been persecuted ever since its creation in 1994 and closed down around 10 times. The authorities insist on linking it with the PKK, which has been waging an armed struggle for Kurdish independence since 1984 and is on a government list of terrorist organisations.

Ozan Kilinç, who replaced Kursun as its editor, was himself jailed on July 22 in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir after a court rejected his appeal against the sentence of 21 years and 9 months in prison he received on February 9 on charges of “PKK propaganda” and “collaborating” with the PKK. Hamdullah Yilmaz, another former Azadiya Welat editor who is facing 21 prosecutions, has fled the country.

RSF deplored the harassment of media that defend Kurdish minority rights such as Azadiya Welat, and their editors. The rejection of Kilinç's appeal just confirms the contradictory situation in which the government finds itself, on the one hand suppressing the media that speak for the Kurdish minority (a quarter of the Turkish population) while, on the other, claiming to be pursuing a policy of opening up to the Kurds, RSF said.

The contradiction was also highlighted by the recent refusals by Diyarbakir courts to release either Bedri Adanir, the owner of the Aram publishing house and editor of the Kurdish-language periodical Hawar, or Gurbet Cakar, the editor of the women's magazine Rengê Hevïya Jinê. Both have spent the past few months in prison.

Erdal Güler, the editor of the periodical Devrimci Demokrasi, has also been held in the northern city of Amasya since December 26, 2007 on charges of propaganda on behalf of the PKK and the Maoist Communist Party (MPK). He is due to be released in September 2014 if he has not received additional sentences by then.

RSF reiterated its support for both the journalists who are in prison and those who are continue to work despite the judicial and physical harassment. “We are going to continue to do our work,” the daily Günlünk's bureau chief said during a news conference at the Journalists Association of Turkey's headquarters on July 21.

Date posted: August 3, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 242