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Court slams Turkey for violating paper's freedom of expression

09 october 2013, 19:05
©Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye
©Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye
Turkey violated national newspaper Cumhuriyet's freedom of expression when it prevented further publication of an interview given by the current President Abdullah Gul to Britain's The Guardian in 1995, AFP reports according to the European rights court rule.

In April 2007, in the run-up to presidential elections, Cumhuriyet had reproduced a quote from the interview that Gul, a candidate in the elections, had given to The Guardian 12 years earlier.

The interview was used as the basis for an article entitled "Turkish Islamists aim for power" amid heated debates in the majority Muslim but staunchly secular nation about Islamic values.

Cumhuriyet quoted in particular Gul saying, "It is the end of the republic of Turkey - we definitely want to change the secular system".

As a result, Gul brought defamation proceedings against Cumhuriyet.

In May 2007, Turkish courts granted an injunction of any further republication of the quote attributed to Gul, as well as of "any news" relating to the pending defamation proceedings.

Cumhuriyet's publisher, its owner and two of its journalists complained that the injunction, requested by Gul, was a violation of their rights.

It was finally lifted in March 2008 after Gul withdrew the case, as he had in the meantime been elected president, and did not consider it appropriate to continue pursuing the matter.

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights now ruled that the injunction had "not been a justified or proportionate interference" with Cumhuriyet's right to freedom of expression, in violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The injunction's "length and breadth ... hampered Cumhuriyet from contributing to public debate at a key point in Turkish political history", said the court.

It held that Turkey was to pay the surviving applicants 2,500 euros ($3,400) each in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and 5,100 euros to the applicants jointly for costs and expenses.

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