Turkey: Pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem shut down

A court temporarily closes down Ozgur Gundem accusing it of “continuously conducting propaganda” for Kurdish fighters.

Press freedom activist arrested in Turkey over spreading terrorist propaganda
The paper has been subjected to raids and legal action, while its staff have been arrested several times [EPA]

A court in Turkey has ordered the interim closure of a newspaper for allegedly having links with Kurdish fighters waging a war against the state and spreading “terrorist propaganda” on behalf of them.

The judgment on Tuesday by the Istanbul court accused the Ozgur Gundem paper of “continuously conducting propaganda for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)” and “acting as if it is a publication of the armed terror organisation”.

The PKK, designated a “terrorist” group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

At least seven people, including three civilians, were killed on Monday in an attack on a police station blamed on PKK in the southeast of the country, which has seen some of the most intense fighting in decades after a ceasefire between the Turkish state and the PKK collapsed in July 2015.

‘Press freedom violation’

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On Tuesday, Turkish media showed photos and footage of police raiding Ozgur Gundem’s offices in Istanbul and arresting several journalists, reportedly including the newspaper’s management.

The pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP), an opposition party in the parliament, called the decision to close the newspaper a violation of press freedom.

“This court order has been issued in order to breach people’s freedom to information and their global human rights,” Saruhan Oruc, the HDP’s deputy leader said.

Ozgur Gundem has previously been subjected to raids and legal action. Its offices have also come under attack, with dozens of its employees arrested and killed since the 1990s.

Between 1994 and 2011, the paper remained closed due to a court order.

‘Decision can be appealed’

Turkey has been in a state of emergency since a faction of soldiers in the Turkish army tried to take down the government on July 15.

Since then, there has been a massive overhaul in the Turkish bureaucracy – from police to judges to academics – as the government seeks to remove state employees who support Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim religious leader, who it claims is behind the coup attempt.

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Scores of media organisations have also been closed in line with the government decrees under the emergency rule.

A senior Turkish official told Al Jazeera, however, that the closure of Ozgur Gundem had nothing to do with the country’s current state of emergency.

“This is a court order as opposed to a decree and therefore is not related to the state of emergency,” the official said.

“The defendants can appeal this decision.”

On Wednesday, Turkey issued two new decrees, dismissing thousands of police officers, army members and bureaucrats, Turkish media said.

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Source: Al Jazeera