Turkish journalist charged and her book banned

Thursday, September 30, 1999

Turkish journalist charged and her book banned

His Excellency Suleyman Demirel
Office of the President
06100 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 468 5026
E-mail: [email protected]

30 September 1999

Your Excellency,

As a supporter of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), an independent organisation which defends freedom of speech worldwide, I am writing to urge you to do everything within your power to drop the charges laid against Nadire Mater and to reverse the ban that has been placed on Nadire Mater's book.

Nadire Mater, a correspondent for Inter Press Service (IPS), faces up to six years in prison for "insulting and belittling the military," a crime under Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code. Nadire Mater is being charged for reproducing the words of retired Turkish soldiers whom she interviewed in her book, Mehmed's Book: "Soldiers Who Fought in the Southeast Speak Out".

In June 1999, Turkish authorities banned Nadire Mater's book. Nadire Mater petitioned the Ministry of Justice to withdraw the charges immediately after her book was banned. The Ministry of Justice responded, stating that "Turkish justice is independent of the executive, and no authority is entitled to order the judges." However, Nadire Mater's prosecution was initiated at the demand of Deputy Chief of Staff General Hilmi Ozkok, and the Army Chief of Staff is listed as the prosecution's "informant." The first hearing for Nadire Mater's case was scheduled to take place on 29 September in Istanbul's Beyoglu Court Hall.

Your Excellency's government passed an amnesty bill on 28 August which you yourself signed on 2 September. Only weeks after this amnesty was approved, Nadire Mater was charged. This is due to the bill's stipulation that journalists who committed "crimes" prior to 23 April 1999 do not qualify to receive the amnesty. The ruling coalition has stated that this legislation is part of a larger move to broaden freedom of expression and thought in Turkey. The fact that many journalists and writers, such as Nadire Mater, do not qualify under the amnesty, however, makes members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange community dubious that such a change is taking place. In the absence of substantive changes in Turkish law, free expression remains threatened in Turkey.

In addition to the limitations of the amnesty legislation, Turkey retains many laws which enable journalists and members of the media to be arrested for their work. We maintain that journalists should not be sent to jail for any amount of time in relation to their work.

I urge Your Excellency to immediately pardon Nadire Mater, releasing her from any further charges. I further urge that you review the country's laws, which in our opinion wrongfully allow journalists to be prosecuted under criminal laws.

Yours Sincerely,

Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

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