Watchdog Group: Turkey, Serbia Journalists’ Situation Causes Concern

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A regional media freedom watchdog said Tuesday it is deeply concerned about the worsening situation for journalists in southeastern Europe following the recent murder of an ethnic Armenian journalist in Turkey.

Hrant Dink was gunned down in broad daylight Jan. 19 outside his bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos. A 17-year-old Turkish nationalist has been charged with his death.

Dink’s murder “shows once again that journalists may easily become victims in the fight for press freedom and freedom of speech,” the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization, or SEEMO, said in a statement.

SEEMO, a network of editors, media executives and journalists in southeastern Europe, said Dink’s killing was a reminder that there are still a number of unsolved cases of journalists killed in the region because of their reporting, including three in Serbia. In the statement, SEEMO called on Serbian officials to investigate those murders, one of which it said dates back to 1994.

SEEMO also said it was alarmed by criminal defamation charges laid against Dogan Harman, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Cypriot newspaper Kibrisli in December 2006.

“SEEMO believes that criminal defamation and insult laws are an anachronism that should be removed from every legal system,” the statement said.

In addition, SEEMO also said it was concerned by the Romanian Constitutional Court’s decision to annul a parliamentary decision removing defamation from the country’s criminal code.

“SEEMO strongly condemns these threats and attacks, as well as any government or state action that restricts the work and movement of journalists,” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO’s secretary general, said in the statement.

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