Turkey rapped over press censorship in paper ban case

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Turkey was criticised for media censorship by the European Court of Human Rights Tuesday, in a case concerning the suspension of weekly newspapers for spreading "terrorist propaganda".

In January 2008, Turkish authorities suspended two newspapers, Yedinci Gun and Toplumsal Demokrasi, for a month for violating anti-terrorism laws.

They were accused of spreading extremist propaganda promoting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist group seeking Kurdish independence.

Twelve people -- including owners, executive directors, editors-in-chief, news directors and journalists -- were criminally prosecuted and the proceedings in their cases are still pending.

The court found that the suspension was a preventative measure imposed on future publications whose contents could not have been known at the time of the decision.

Therefore, the court concluded that the aim was to prevent the publication of similar articles in the future, thus hindering the professional activities of the 12 applicants.

"Less draconian measures could have been envisaged, such as the confiscation of particular issues of the newspapers or the restriction on the publication of specific articles," the ruling said.

"The domestic courts had unjustifiably restricted the essential role of the press as a public watchdog in a democratic society," it added.

The 12 applicants were awarded 1,800 euros (2,200 dollars) in damages.

In October 2009, the court ruled against Turkey's decision to suspend four weekly newspapers for promoting the same organisation.

© 2010 AFP

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