Turkey: Set journalists free!

Dozens of Turkish journalists writing for the Tutuklu Gazete newspaper have very personal reasons to be concerned about media freedom in their EU-candidate country. They are all in jail.

From prison cells across Turkey, they contributed articles to a special edition protesting against restrictions on freedom of expression, which have drawn criticism from the United States and Europe.

A report by the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental pan-European human rights body, has called for urgent measures to address a "particularly worrying" situation for media freedom.

Writing from jail in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, Kurdish newspaper editor Vedat Kursun says it is particularly tough for journalists who write about a 27-year-old Kurdish separatist insurgency in which more 40,000 people have died.

"Journalists in this country have been put in a situation where they virtually can't practice their profession. They always feel the cold breath of the authorities on their neck," he wrote in Tutuklu Gazete, published as a free supplement in leftist Turkish newspapers.

Kursun was sentenced to 166 years in jail for membership of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), viewed by the U.S. and EU as a terrorist group. He, like other journalists, says he was only convicted for articles in his newspaper.

Tutuklu Gazete's publication date of July 24 was symbolic. It marked the anniversary of the official abolition of censorship in the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Abdul Hamid II at the time of the Young Turks revolution in 1908.

Turkey has fallen to 138th out of 178 countries reviewed for the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders, a media freedom pressure group, from 101st in 2007 due to the proliferation of lawsuits.

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