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Turkey fined for closure of Kurdish newspaper

The European Court of Human Rights found the paper had been targeted unfairly by the Turkish state

TURKEY has been ordered to pay compensation to the owner of a Kurdish newspaper shut down by decree as the state moved to crush all forms of opposition following a failed coup in July 2016.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that criminal proceedings had been “systematically opened” against the Ozgur Gundem newspaper “regardless of the content of the articles.”

The court heard that the newspaper “self-censored,” fearing prosecution, a familiar practice in Turkey where more journalists are in prison than any other country.

Despite this, a Turkish court ordered the closure of Ozgur Gundem in July 2016 after the newspaper was accused of “spreading terrorist propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

The newspaper, which covered issues regarding the so-called Kurdish question, has faced routine harassment with workers facing arrest and threats from Turkish security services.

The Morning Star, as part of a 2017 delegation, heard that state services had raided the newspapers offices, smashing equipment and dragging women down the stairs by their hair before sexually assaulting them.

One Armenian journalist said that “they jumped on our desks pointing guns at us, saying: ‘You will feel the power of the state. We are Ottomans, we won. We are superior and can do what we want’.”

The ECHR found the paper had been targeted unfairly by the Turkish state with some of the articles containing Christmas greetings which did not amount to calls for violence or hate speech.

While it published statements from the PKK and articles which suggested solutions to the Kurdish question, these “could be regarded as contributing to a public debate,” the court ruling stated.

It ordered the government to pay the paper’s owner Ali Gurbuz €3,500 (£3,030). 

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