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Freedom House Condemns Turkey’s Ban on Pro-Kurdish Newspaper
Press freedom in Turkey continued to downslide this week with the decision of an Istanbul court to ban Turkish newspaper, Özgür Gündem, from publication for allegedly spreading “terrorist propaganda.” The paper’s Istanbul offices were raided on March 24 and authorities subsequently seized the Sunday edition of the paper and barred the newspaper from publication for one month. Özgür Gündem regularly reports on the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the persecution of Kurds within Turkey, and has received an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Turkey is rated only Partly Free in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2011 index. Journalists and publishers are subject to legal investigations and can face imprisonment for up to three years if convicted of disseminating statements and propaganda from terrorist organizations. Members of the pro-Kurdish press have often been accused of collaborating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization. On December 20, 2011, dozens of journalists from the pro-Kurdish press were arrested for their alleged terrorist ties. On March 12, four Turkish journalists were released from prison after accused of involvement in “Ergenekon,” a plot to overthrow the Turkish government. One of those journalists, Ahmet Sik, is now under investigation again.