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Rare victory for press freedom in Turkey as Kurdish journalist Seda Taskin is spared jail

CAMPAIGNERS celebrated a rare victory for press freedom in Turkey today after Kurdish journalist Seda Taskin was spared jail.

The Mesopotamia News Agency journalist faced a sentence of seven-and-a-half years for “spreading terrorist propaganda” after being convicted last year.

She appeared in the Erzurum court via video link from Ankara and made just one powerful statement in her defence: “Journalism cannot be judged.”

Ms Taskin received 13-month sentence, which has been deferred for five years on the provision that she is not charged with any terrorist activities for the next five years.

She explained that journalism was on trial with her work produced as evidence against her.

Even her name, Seda, which she has used since childhood was presented by prosecutors as a “terrorist codename.”

Had today’s appeal failed, she would have been taken to prison with no right of appeal as her sentences were both less than five years.

She thanked the Star for its support and its statement of solidarity and said it gave her strength.

A defiant Ms Taskin said she was pleased with the decision not to jail her, however she added: “Now we must fight for our friends.”

They include her comrade, Jin News journalist Kibriye Evren, who is on hunger strike in the notorious Diyarbakir E-Type Prison.

A court recently refused her release from jail on health grounds and adjourned her court hearing until July 18.

Supporters have warned that this will mean she will have been on hunger strike for more than 200 days with a very real likelihood that she will die before she appears in court.

Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with a third of the world’s total. The country’s journalist unions describe conditions as “an open prison” with many self-censoring for fear of persecution and imprisonment.

Ms Taskin told the Star: “I have been incarcerated for 360 days. The verdict did not make us happy because we still have colleagues in prison. Journalism was judged in my person.

“We will continue the solidarity on behalf of our colleagues and will fight until there are no journalists left in dungeons.

“I have taken over their pen and I will do my best to be worthy of them.”

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