Beate Slydal: About the Turkish Penal Code Article 301

BEATE SLYDAL
(Norway)

Political scientist Beate Slydal speaks about the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Beate Slydal works as a political advisor and lobbyist for Amnesty International Norway. 



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Turkey’s Penal Code Article 301 says:

“Those who
(1) Public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and up to three years.
(2) Public dnigration of the Government of the Turkish Republic, the judicial institutions, military or security organisations of the state shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months up to two years.
(3) If denigration of Turkishness is committed by a Turkish citizen in another country, the punishment shall be increased by one third.
(4) Expression of thought with the purpose of criticism shall not necessarily be punished.”

Update by 30 April 2008
The Turkish parliament adopted amendments to Article 301 on 30 April 2008 where the term “Turkishness” is now replaced with “Turkish Nation”, and the term “Republic” is replaced with “the State of Republic of Turkey”. Several human rights organisations have stated that the new changes are “cosmetic and insufficient,”.



Google News – continously updated:

‘Article 301’

Reporters Without Borders – 5 May 2008:

‘Freedom of expression still in danger in Turkey despite article 301 reform’

Initiative for Freedom of Expression – 2008:

‘Article 301 Case… Insulting Turkishness’

Amnesty International – 1 December 2005:

‘Turkey: Article 301 is a threat to freedom of expression and must be repealed now!’

This excerpt of Beate Slydal’s presentation was recorded at the seminar ‘Music – a Human Right’ in Oslo, Norway, on Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2008. Courtesy to Nobel Peace Center for kind assistance. Video recording and editing by Mik Aidt, Freemuse 


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Duration: 
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Beate Slydal’s presentation

‘The aim is to thwart the admission process to the EU’

Excerpt of the presentation
“The content of ‘Article 301’ is an interesting one. If you look at the other articles which have been in use in Turkey during all those years, you will see that is is more or less the same: They all deal with not criticising with the core of Turkishness.

Article 301 came to replace another article, ‘Article 159’, which said exactly the same things, and a lot of court cases have been raised due to this article. For many many years, Amnesty International has called for the abolition of this kind of articles, and we still do.”

Transcription of the four minutes video 
“The content of this article has been one of the main topics within the EU. It is of course unacceptable for the EU to have this kind of law in place in any country which wants to become a full member of EU. So, this article, amongst a number of other articles, concerning freedom of expression, association, and so forth, has been argued by the EU that it has to be abolished.

So what is happening is that Article 301 has now been pending for several months in the Turkish parliament, because they know that they have to change the content of this article, if the discussions on the process between Turkey and the EU shall continue. There has not been any final decissions within the parliament due to the discussions about the headscarf question which is a hot one in Turkey. But one of the changes that the parliament has decided to introduce to this article is to take out the word “Turkishness” and introduce “The Turkish Nation” – as if this would make any difference at all. It is ridiculous.

And since the Article 301 replaced the Article 159, which happened on 1 June 2005, more than 60 cases have been procecuted. The majority of those cases have been acquitted, a number of the cases are still pending in the court system, and in some cases persons have been convicted. Ferhat Tunç’s case is one of those many pending cases in the court system. Because what usually happens is that your case might be acquitted, but then it takes a week, a month, a half a year, and suddenly someone has raised a new case against you. So there is usually a never ending story of cases going on in the Turkish court system on this kind of articles, and this kind of issues.

If you look into what kind of actors who are busy trying to run this kind of cases… it is really interesting to see who they are. A bar organisation called the Great Jurist Union headed by Kemal Kerincsiz who is a Turkish lawyer is behind nearly all of the Article 301 trials. More than 40 of the 60 cases have been charged by him. If you follow the Turkish news, if you go and look at the television or in the newspapers, or if you by any chance happen to be present in any of the courts where these cases or on the scene, and if you see Kemal Kerincsiz in action, you will really wonder if he is sincere. You realize that he has some special motives behind what he is doing, and you wonder again: who is behind him? Who is the one pulling the strings and making Kemal Kerincsiz perform like a puppet on a string. Because that is what he is doing. Over, and over again.

And many people within Turkey, but also outside Turkey, are questioning why this is happening, and ask whether this article has become a tool of the nationalist “old guard” who use it to press charges against people, usually people who are quite internationally renowned, because then you will have international interest and focus upon the cases, but not to stiffle dissenting opinions but with the aim of making trouble for the Turkish government in its dialogue with the EU.”


Text from Beate Slydal’s powerpoint slides

Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code: ”Public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years.”
Amnesty calls for the abolition of the article

Since Article 301 replaced Article 159 on 1 June 2005, charges have been brought in more than 60 cases; many cases have been aquitted, a number of cases are still pending in the court system and in some cases persons have been convicted

The ”Great Jurist Union” headed by Kemal Kerincsiz, a Turkish Lawyer, is behind nearly all of the Article 301 trials.

Article 301 a tool of the nationalist ”old guard”, who use it to press charges against people of international renown, not to stiffle dissenting opinions but with the aim of thwarting the admission process to the EU?

‘The deep state’: The actors behind the scene pulling the strings and serving their own interests

Actors within the army, the police, the political establishment and the so called ”academia” making shifting allies with groups and organizations that can do the dirty work of intimidating, threating, percecuting and killing persons who dare to speak out on minority rights, democracy, the position of the army etc.



History

In 1926 the Turkish Penal Code entered into force. “Turkishness, Turkish Nation, Turkish State, Turkish Parliament, Government, Judicial System, Army and Security Forces” were protected by Article 159.

In 1936 ‘denigrating the Republic’ was included in the article and the penalties were increased when the offence was committed abroad by a Turkish citizen.

In 1946 a rule of getting permission from Ministry of Justice for launching a proceeding was introduced.

In 2002 a sentence saying that criticism not necessarily shall be punished was added to the article.

In 2005 the rule of getting permission from the Ministry of Justice was removed and the terms ‘looking down upon and mocking’ was replaced with ‘denigrating.’

According to official figures published in 2006, more than 2,700 Turkish citizens have been tried under Article 301, among these musicians such as Ferhat Tunç and Şanar Yurdatapan.



Statements

“Such an article has no place in a democratic society and it should be abolished.”
The Istanbul-based Initiative for Freedom of Expression

In February 2007, Freemuse endorsed a Declaration demanding abolishment of Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code


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