EU-sought Turkish penal code takes effect amidst criticism over press freedom
Forbes from AFX
June 1 2005
06.01.2005, 05:48 AM
ANKARA (AFX) – Turkey’s new penal code, a key reform demanded by the
European Union, took effect today after months of political wrangling
and despite criticism that it severely restricts press freedoms.
Controversy has haunted the code ever since the government rushed
it through parliament last September as part of reforms that helped
Turkey win an EU green light for accession talks, scheduled to start
The law has been welcomed for introducing a more liberal criminal
justice system, in particular increasing penalties against human
rights abuses and torture and significantly improving the rights of
women and children.
However some parts, notably those concerning the media, triggered
a widespread campaign against the law, forcing Ankara to put it on
hold just days before it was due to take effect on April 1, to allow
parliament time to amend several provisions.
Parliament passed the amendments last week, but President Ahmet Necdet
Sezer, who has two weeks to study the articles, had not signed them
into law by midnight Tuesday, which means the code has taken effect
in its original form.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul played down the prospect of Sezer
vetoing the amendments, insisting that the main reforms demanded by
the EU are part of the code’s original version.
‘The issues of concern to the EU — in other words, provisions related
to the (EU) political criteria — have already been amended,’ Gul said.
Turkish newspapers have responed to the introduction of the new code
with protests and scepticism.
‘Freedom of the press is in danger,’ declared the daily Aksam, while
Milliyet headlined: ‘Sour start to a new era.’
The Radikal newspaper also slammed the government for failing to
address the complaints of press groups, which argue that under the new
code, journalists may still end up behind bars, despite jail sentences
having been purged from the press law in an earlier reform last year.
Experts say legal articles concerning the media contain terms vague
enough to leave prosecutors and judges with room for arbitrary
decisions that may threaten freedom of expression.
One article of particular concern foresees up to 15 years imprisonment
for those who disseminate propaganda via the media against ‘fundamental
national interests’ in return for material benefits from foreigners.
The article raised alarm when it emerged that explanatory notes in
the draft said it targets those who may, for instance, advocate the
withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus or support claims that the
massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire was genocide.
Press groups also say provisions pertaining to the protection of
privacy and the secrecy of judicial proceedings until suspects are
formally charged are too restrictive and will deal a heavy blow to
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress