ABUSES: Turkish Media In Dark
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Yalman Onaran, ext.101
AS TURKISH PM "ENLIGHTENS" US MEDIA,
TURKISH MEDIA STAY IN THE DARK
NEW YORK, April 17 -- Turkey's Prime Minister Tansu Ciller will be
making her rounds among the press corps in New York and Washington on Tuesday in an
attempt to explain her country's recent incursion in northern Iraq. Back home, more than
70 journalists are in jail for their writings, according to the Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ). Numerous alternative publications have been shut down for their
unorthodox views. Foreign press corps are restricted in their movements in the region.
On Tuesday, Ciller is scheduled to meet Peter Jennings of ABC News,
Robert MacNeil of PBS, and the editorial boards of The New York Times and Time magazine.
Afterwards, she will travel to Washington to meet with the editorial boards of the
Washington Post, Washington Times, and Newsweek, and to appear on CNN. She is expected to
explain her government's reasons for the three-week old military operation in Iraq, which
is part of an effort by the Ciller government to eradicate the Kurdish insurgence.
According to CPJ, the Turkish government's crackdown on independent
press coverage of Kurdish separatism has made it impossible for local media to present
complete and balanced accounts of the conflict. Turkish authorities were holding 74
Turkish journalists in jail at the end of 1994 on charges that their reporting was
favorable to the separatist cause. Scores of local publications have been hit by fines and
other legal sanctions for the same reason.
The offices of the new pro-Kurdish newspaper, Yeni Politika, were raided last week
before it published its first issue. Six journalists were detained for three days. The
inaugural issue was confiscated by the authorities for alleged "separatist
propaganda," a crime punishable by up to three years of imprisonment of the editor in
charge, under Turkey's infamous Anti-Terror Law. Yasar Kemal, Turkey's most acclaimed
author internationally, was recently charged under this law for an article he wrote for
the German magazine Der Spiegel. He faces six months to three years in jail if convicted.
"Prime Minister Ciller has repeatedly said that it is time to `take steps to
improve [the] shortcomings' of Turkish democracy, but her government hasn't done anything
about it," said William A. Orme, CPJ's executive director. "She has talked about
amending the Anti-terror law `to remove anomalies which unduly restrict certain forms of
expression' and declaring an amnesty for prisoners of thought. Her coalition partners said
Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law which criminalizes expression should be removed all
together. However, no progress can be cited on any of these promises." CPJ requested
a meeting with Prime Minister Ciller during her visit to New York but was not granted one.
International media are denied full access to observe the Turkish military incursion in
northern Iraq. Foreign correspondents who are not permamently based in Turkey are not
allowed to cross the Turkish border into Iraq on their own. They are escorted in and out
of the region by the Turkish military, hampering their ability to gather news
independently. Many American and European correspondents have complained about the
restriction, calling it an attempt to deny full media access to the Turkish operation.