6 November 2003

Alert

Five journalists face heavy prison sentences for "insulting the army"


Incident details

Basaran Duzgun, Hasan Hasturer, Suleyman Erguclu, Hasan Kahvecioglu, Mehmet Davulcu

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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has voiced outrage over the legal action launched against five journalists on 3 and 4 November 2003 in the Turkish part of Cyprus. They are accused of "insulting the army" in reports about police violence against demonstrators who were calling for a referendum on reunification of the island.

The journalists face possible prison sentences ranging from 10 to 44 years. Under the existing law, they are likely to be placed in custody for the duration of their trials, for which no dates have been set. Sources linked to the police have said other journalists could also be prosecuted.

"We are outraged that journalists could be sentenced to so many years in prison just for doing their job," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a letter to the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash, and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül.

Turkey is the only country that recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), as it calls the northern part of the island.

Ménard described the prosecutions as "extremely serious press freedom violations." He said they violate both European standards and those of the United Nations, which maintains that no press offence should be punishable by imprisonment.

He also warned that if the charges were not dropped, it would "signal that the TRNC is entering a new phase in the repression of independent news media; one fraught with consequences." Ménard stressed that RSF expected a reply to its letter, which it copied to the European Union and NATO.

The targeted newspaper reports criticised the use of violence against demonstrators in the village of Doganci on 25 March. The protesters had been calling for a symbolic referendum following the collapse of a United Nations plan for the island's reunification.

On 3 November, military prosecutors launched legal action against Basaran Duzgun, an editor and editorial writer with the daily "Kibris" and Agence France-Presse correspondent. They are seeking a 10-year prison sentence. In an editorial entitled, "Whose guarantors?" published on 27 March, Duzgun criticised the methods used by police and questioned the effectiveness of Greece, Turkey and Britain, which were declared "guarantors" of Cyprus's independence in 1960.

Hasan Hasturer, another "Kibris" editorial writer, has been on trial in a civil court since 3 November for "inciting hatred towards the state with the intention of destroying it and debasing it", and "insulting and inciting hatred for Turkey's senior officers" in a 26 March editorial entitled, "Democracy with truncheons in Doganci". He faces 11 years in prison.

On 4 November, both the Military Prosecutor's Office and a civilian court initiated legal action against "Kibris" editor-in-chief Suleyman Erguclu for publishing the columns. He faces 21 years in prison.

Legal action was also launched the same day against Hasan Kahvecioglu, an editorial writer with the daily "Ortam", for allegedly insulting the army in a 26 March column entitled, "Why do the state, the police and the army act against their own citizens?" The Military Prosecutor's Office has requested an 11-year prison sentence.

"Ortam" editor-in-chief Mehmet Davulcu is also being prosecuted by the military for publishing the same column. He faces a total of 44 years in prison for the four counts on which he has been charged.



Source

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris, France
rsf (@) rsf.org


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