Declaration demanding abolishment of Turkey’s Article 301

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Joint action:
Declaration demanding abolishment of Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code

29 non-governmental organisations have released a joint declaration demanding a total abolishment of Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code and other articles violating freedom of expression.

The following is the joint action statement signed by 21 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and eight other organisations:

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In memory of Hrant Dink, 21 IFEX members urge the Turkish authorities to abolish Article 301 TPC

We, the undersigned,

– Saddened by the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist and founder of the “Agos” newspaper, Hrant Dink, on 19 January 2007;

– Recalling that Hrant Dink had been condemned to a six-month suspended sentence for having “insulted Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code;

– Considering that the criminalisation of insult and defamation is in conflict with international standards that guarantee the right to freedom of expression in that it discourages free debate on the function of official institutions, and that the term “insult” is too vague to have any standing as a legal charge, being too easily interpreted to meet the needs of those in authority and being potentially used as another means of preventing open discourse on sensitive issues;

– Therefore, observing that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is used to suppress the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Turkey is a party;

– Considering that defamation and/or insult laws cannot be justified if their purpose or effect is to protect the “reputations” of entities other than those that have the right to sue and to be sued;

– Supporting the ECHR case law according to which defamation laws cannot be justified if their effect or purpose is to prevent legitimate criticism of officials or the exposure of official wrongdoing or corruption;

– Pointing out that those charged for “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 have become targets for extremists, many of whom have suffered verbal and physical attacks outside courtrooms, culminating in the tragic events of 19 January;

– Welcoming that the authorities have now offered police protection for others who have been charged under these laws;

– Believing that the discontinuance of the court hearings and the dropping of the offence of “insulting Turkishness” will serve to reduce the likelihood of any further tragedies;

Urge the Turkish authorities to:

– Abolish Article 301 of the Penal Code entirely;

– Remove once and for all any articles that can be used to suppress the rights enshrined under Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 10 of the ECHR (e.g. Law 5816).

The following IFEX members have endorsed the above statement:

International Publishers Association (IPA)
Writers in Prison Committee, International PEN
ARTICLE 19
World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Freedom House
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
PEN Norway
Index on Censorship
Hong Kong Journalists Association (HJKA)
Dutch Association of Journalists
Observatoire pour la Liberté de Presse, d’édition et de création (OLPEC)
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)
Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES)
Independent Journalism Center-Moldova
BIANET
Greek Helsinki Monitor
International Federation of Journalists

Other organisations that have endorsed this statement:

Freemuse (Freedom of Musical Expression)
English PEN
International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN)
Greek Helsinki Group
PEN Flanders
San Miguel de Allende PEN
Russian PEN
Danish PEN

For further information, contact IPA, 3, Avenue de Miremont, Ch-1206, Geneva, Switzerland, tel: +41 22 346 30 18, fax: +41 22 347 57 17,
e-mail: secretariat[.]ipa-uie.org
Internet: www.ipa-uie.org

or

WiPC, International PEN, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6ER, U.K., tel: +44 207 405 0338, fax: +44 207 405 0339,
e-mail: wipc[.]internationalpen.org.uk
Internet: www.internationalpen.org.uk

The information contained in this joint action is the sole responsibility of IPA and WiPC. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit IPA and WiPC.

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DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE
555 Richmond St. West, # 1101, PO Box 407
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3B1
Tel: +1 416 515 9622   Fax: +1 416 515 7879
Alerts e-mail: alerts[.]ifex.org
General e-mail: ifex[.]ifex.org
Internet site: www.ifex.org
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BIANET report:
72 prosecuted under Article 301 in 2006

In an environment where state institutions and security forces are held sacred, the new Turkish Penal Code, promoting prison sentences and criminalizing the ambiguous act of “insulting Turkishness”, resulted in arbitrary trials and prosecutions in 2006, writes IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) in Istanbul in its 2006 Report.

Turkey witnesses huge and numerous problems regarding freedom of expression. In contrast to trends in international law, even criticism against state institutions was treated with the threat of imprisonment for terms ranging up to three years.

According to BIANET the number of prosecuted journalists, publishers and activists in Turkey rose to 293 in 2006, in comparison to 157 in the previous year. Complaints filed by the General Staff, Police Department and nationalist circles as well as problems that arose during the judicial process brought Article 301 of the Penal Code to international attention. The number of individuals tried under the article in question went up to 72, from 29 in the previous year. 72 were prosecuted and seven people were convicted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The 37-page report classifies the 318 different cases and 449 journalists, publishers and activists involved under the headlines “attacks and threats”, “detentions and arrests “, “trials and initiatives”, “European Court of Human Rights”, “RTUK applications”, “adjustments and seeking justice” and “Reaction to censorship”.

Hrant Dink, Sabri Ejder Öziç, Eren Keskin, Aziz Özer, Erol Özkoray, Mehmet Fethi Dördüncü and Hanefi Bekmezci were convicted in those cases.

Before falling victim to murder on 19 January 2007, Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink had been prosecuted once again for saying that “he recognizes the Armenian Genocide allegations” during an interview with the Reuters agency, and for publishing news about the campaign for the abolition of the very article he’d been tried under. The owner of his newspaper, “Agos”, Sarkis Seropyan, and director Arat Dink will also be tried on that count.

Thirteen of the cases filed under Article 301 were acquitted, while five cases were dropped because of prescription or lack of consent from the Ministry of Justice.

For the full summary of the report, see:  www.bianet.org

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