CNNTurk Fined Over Kurdish Report as Media Curbs Continue to Tighten in Turkey


ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Trouble from terrorism-related reporting continued to hound Turkish media outlets Thursday, when CNNTürk became the latest victim of a large fine and two reporters from daily Taraf headed back to court for ongoing cases.

The news channel CNNTürk was fined for broadcasting comments of a parliamentary deputy regarding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), the state’s media watchdog, fined the channel more than 285,000 Turkish Liras because of a political debate broadcast Aug 10.

The show was about educating students in their mother tongues, the PKK’s unilateral cease-fire, the call for democratic autonomy and the Kurdish issue in general. Osman Özçelik, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), was among the guests and his opinions were the cause of the fine.

“The title for the entities in the low-intensity war is guerilla. I mean, ‘terrorist’ and such [terms], I do not think it is right” was one of Özçelik sentences that aired live on CNNTürk. He also said: “The [PKK] has a uniform, a hierarchy and an emblem. It is a guerilla division with its emblem and uniform. It should be correctly titled whether you accept it or not,” and “The [PKK] is a political movement. It is a political party; one that also has military power. Its name is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”

Neşe Düzel, a veteran journalist for daily Taraf famous for several high-profile interviews with officials from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, went to trial on Wednesday on charges of “making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization.”

Düzel faces a sentence of up to 7.5 years in prison for her interviews with PKK officials Zübeyir Aydar and Remzi Kartal, published in a Taraf article titled “A period of conflict has started.”

The indictment against Düzel, prepared by Istanbul Public Prosecutor Hakan Karaali, argued the story “gives readers the impression of violence being a necessary and just precaution.” Karaali has said freedom of expression can be limited on these grounds as mentioned in international treaties.

Düzel defended herself, saying: “I did not make [terrorist] organization propaganda, I made propaganda for politics” – meaning she is a supporter of the problem being solved through politics, not violence. Düzel also noted the government itself is holding meetings with the PKK and demanded to be acquitted. The trial was postponed until March.

Sibel Hürtaş, another reporter for Taraf, is facing 18 years in prison over two stories in which she reported on the alleged neglect of the Turkish military regarding the PKK’s Dağlıca attack. The assault on the Dağlıca Battalion in Hakkari on Oct. 21, 2007 killed 13 soldiers, wounded 16 and saw eight taken prisoner. Hürtaş was called to testify to the court, but the notification had not reached her, and the court ordered that she be brought in forcibly. Hürtaş was brought to the Kadıköy Courthouse by the police and was released after giving testimony.

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