Nearly All Journalists in Turkey in Trouble : The media: At any given time, nearly two dozen journalists are in jail for publishing political views.


His staff is working behind a big steel door on the top floor of a run-down office building, but leftist magazine editor Dogu Perincek isn't around to keep an appointment made a few days before.

"I'm sorry, but the police came looking for my husband yesterday, and he's in hiding," said Sule Perincek, who was pinch-hitting for him.

Dogu Perincek, the editor of the magazine 2000 e Dogru--Toward the Year 2000--is in trouble with the law because he supports greater rights for the minority Kurds. He is not alone. Virtually all journalists are in trouble just now in this rapidly developing country of 55 million people.

"I don't like to tell people I'm a journalist--it makes a very bad impression," Alptemur Kilic, a conservative commentator, told a visitor.

Oktay Eksi, a columnist for the newspaper Hurriyet and president of the Press Council, said, "Journalism has become a profession no one likes to join."

The Turkish press, which tends to be fast and free with facts, emphasizes violence and nudity in the competition for readers. Not everyone is amused. Two Istanbul reporters at a gossipy newspaper that has since folded were killed by outraged readers who felt that their honor had been besmirched.

Serious journalism is equally dangerous. A Hurriyet correspondent was killed by Kurdish nationalists in southeastern Turkey, where separatist guerrillas are battling with the army.

Last month, 55-year-old Cetin Emec, a columnist for Hurriyet, Turkey's largest newspaper, was shot and killed on his way to work. His driver was also killed in the attack, thought to have been mounted by Islamic fundamentalists as far to the right politically as the Kurdish nationalists are to the left.

At any given time, nearly two dozen Turkish editors and reporters are in jail for publishing political views judged unacceptable, usually far-left or pro-Kurdish.

The Press Council counts 153 decrees and legislated press rules imposed by Turkish governments since 1921, most of them restricting freedom in one area or another and all of them still in effect under the government of Prime Minister Turgut Ozal.

"Ozal has attacked the press at least once a week," columnist Eksi said. "Police and prosecutors understand the attitude he has created."

The council recorded newspaper and magazine confiscations last year at the rate of one a week. In addition, it said there were 48 attacks on journalists by policemen or public officials and that a total of 118 legal proceedings were begun against 16 newspapers in Istanbul.

Books and movies also face government control in Turkey, whose human rights record is a frequent target of international organizations.

This month, the government decreed nationwide censorship of reporting on the Kurdish insurgency, together with provisions of internal exile for people living in the disputed southeast.

"In 38 years as a journalist," Eksi said, "I've never seen this degree of interference."

The Journalists' Union of Turkey complained that Turkey "will suffer much damage from the application of 19th-Century censorship and exile."

The censorship decree is broad but vague, leaving editors uncertain about what they can and cannot publish. That, implicitly, will be decided after the fact by government prosecutors.

"This is heartbreaking, anti-democratic, and difficult to oppose," said the editor of a major national newspaper who asked not to be identified by name. "They can catch you on anything. Suppose I send a reporter to the southeast and he is sentenced to 15 years, we are fined heavily and shut down. Is it worth it?"

President Ozal defended the move in a recent speech to businessmen, saying: "We brought in measures for the press so that they would control themselves. If they do not, then the measures come into force. This is not censorship. I hear that one of our newspapers has stopped publishing a magazine. That means the measures are working."

According to Nezih Demirkent, president of the journalists' union, the decree authorizes government officials to close offending publications but provides no written guidelines under which they are to function, leaving it up to individual caprice.

"The government may defend supremacy of the law, but the way it has put itself above the law has breached all human rights, not just those of the press," Demirkent said. "From now on, it is impossible to speak of the rule of law or a democratic society."

In diplomatic circles, the fact that the government has created no formal mechanism for enforcing censorship suggests that the move is intended mostly as intimidation, to force self-censorship.

"I think publications will push daily at the edges of what can be published," an optimistic Western observer said, "and if one is eventually charged under the new decree, there's a good chance the courts will throw out the case."

There are few optimists at Perincek's magazine, a weekly with a circulation of 20,000. The ink had barely dried on the decree when the shop that printed the magazine called to say "no more."

"They said they were afraid they would be shut down if they continued printing us," Sule Perincek said. "No one else will print us, either."

The same thing happened to two small monthlies published by the Socialist Party.

The next day, plainclothes police went looking for Perincek, who in the past two decades has spent nearly 10 years in prison under military dictatorships.

"The policemen said there was a document my husband had to sign at headquarters," his wife said. "When I asked why they couldn't bring whatever document it was to him, they said they had their orders."

Now, with Perincek in hiding and his magazine silenced, an angry and anguished Turkish press waits to learn how far those orders extend.

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