'ZAMAN' 21.02.07 - ARTICLE 301 ! What civilised countries expect is what Turkey is unable to deliver !
EU CRITICAL OF TURKISH GOV'S STANCE ON ARTICLE 301
Servet Yanatma Brussels
Today's Zaman, Turkey
Feb 21 2007
The European Union has expressed concern over the Turkish government's stance on possible amendments to a controversial article of the penal code, saying refusal to change the article in the hope that no one will end up in jail in the end is unacceptable.
The EU is pressuring candidate Turkey to change or, better yet, abolish Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, saying it restricts freedom of expression. Criticism of the law increased when Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who had been tried and convicted for "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301, was gunned down by a teenage assailant on Jan. 19 in Ýstanbul. EU sources said the Turkish government holds that the article is harmless since those who have
been tried under it are eventually acquitted of charges.
EU sources added that this approach is causing concern because the problem with Article 301 is actually a problem of mentality. The same sources pointed out killing of Dink after he had been tried under Article 301.
According to the EU sources, the article restricts freedom of expression and needs substantial revision and amendment. Recalling that the EU is not in a position to dictate a specific text, the sources underline that their job is to point to the flaws that constitute threat to the enjoyment of freedom of expression.
The government has said it was open to the idea of amendments to Article 301 but insists that it needs proposals from the non-governmental organizations since amending the law requires a social consensus.
On Monday, a Cabinet meeting originally expected to tackle possible amendments to he law was again fruitless, with government spokesman Cemil Cicek saying after the lengthy talks that proposals coming from the NGOs were as "vague" as the text of the article.
EU sources said government's attempts to get proposals from the NGOs were "interesting" but added that it was up to governments to push for legal amendments, not the NGOs.
ARTICLE 301 STILL ON ANKARA'S AGENDA
Today's Zaman, Turkey
Feb 20 2007
Turkish Press Council Chairman Oktay Ekºi submitted the amendments proposed by the Council concerning Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC) to Justice Minister Cemil Cicek.
This is the second time the Council has delivered the same proposal to Cicek. Ekºi stated that they added a legal basis to their proposal and they tried to ensure that the amendments to the article would increase freedom of speech in Turkey. The Council's proposal replaces the word "Turkishness" with "Turkish Nation" and the word "denigration" with "insult."
In the legal basis section, it is maintained that the word "denigration" is problematic as it leaves too excessive room for the interpretation of the article. The proposal also argues for a re-introduction of the practice of "obtaining consent from the Justice Minister to launch a probe on charges insulting Turkishness" as stipulated under former Article 159, which was replaced by Article 301.The Council also asks for a reduction of the upper and lower limits of prison sentences in the article.
IMPOSSIBLE TO ESCAPE FROM 301:
Turkish Daily News
Feb 21 2007
Daily Radikal reported that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which is in the spotlight once again after Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's murder, continues to be "impossible to escape." In 21 months, 12 people received a sentence based on the article and there are still 18 cases pending. While the Republican People's Party (CHP) refuses any change to the law and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not propose anything concrete, 301 remains a barrier to freedom of speech.
Article 301 forbids humiliating "Turkishness," the Turkish Parliament and the government. The first person sentenced under the law was Ýbrahim Guclu, the spokesperson of Kurd-der, a Kurdish organization. His sentence was one-and-a-half years in prison.
The latest victim of the law is Aydýn Engin, a writer for the AGOS newspaper. He is being tried for saying, "I want to go to Paris and say 'there is no Armenian genocide' and return to Turkey to say an 'Armenian genocide was committed.'" Yesterday, Engin made a deposition to the Þiþli Prosecutor.
Engin, after his statement, said that he was sad that the prosecutor has taken the accusation seriously because it was evident that what he said was no crime. "I thought that the prosecutor would throw the accusation away," he said. According to Engin, cases against journalists, especially coming from a group who does this as a job, is a shame.