Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reporters Without Borders: 301 needs "deeds not words"

13 November 2007
The New Anatolian / Ankara

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have urged the Turkish authorities to move to end the words and start acting to change Article 301 of criminal law allowing prosecution for “insulting Turkish identity” after the Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin declared the government intends to amend the law.

“It’s been two years now since, alongside Turkish journalists and press freedom organizations, we have called for the law to be amended and proceedings dropped against those who criticize, on the pretext that they are” insulting Turkish identity,” the worldwide press freedom organization declared.

“We cannot forget that Turkish authorities have used Article 301 as a tool of terrible repression. It gives voice to and stokes up nationalist tensions at work in Turkey and finds fervent advocates in the Turkish legal system,” the organization said.

Turkish journalist of Armenian origin Hrant Dink who was murdered on January 19, 2007 was himself prosecuted under this article. His son, Arat Dink was given a one-year suspended prison sentence on 11 October, for reprinting in the weekly Agos an interview given by his father to the Reuters news agency, in which he recalled that the massacres of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 were genocide”, it continued.

Justice Minister Sahin told the Anatolian News Agency that the Justice and Development (AK) Party government had decided to amend Article 301. He stressed that the council of ministers would “at the first opportunity” examine about five drafts on the basis of proposals from civil organizations, select some and then seek debate on them in parliament.

This statement was in response to the conclusions of the annual progress report on Turkey unveiled by the European Commission.

The report stressed that “considerable effort is still required on freedom of expression” and urged the Turkish government to take “immediate steps” in this area.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 3 October that he was in favor of amending Article 301. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made similar promises in November 2006 ahead of the publication of the annual EU report.

Article 301 headed “denigration of Turkish identity, of the republic, the institutions or organs of state”, says whoever "openly denigrates the government, organs of state justice or military or police structures” risks a prison sentence of six months to three years.

Not only do the Turkish courts severely apply this law, but they ignore paragraph 4 which stipulates that, “Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime”.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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