ANKARA: 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

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.

Ekºi also submitted the proposal to the main opposition party,
Republican People’s Party (CHP). Yesterday, CHP Parliamentary Group
Deputy Chairman Haluk Koc was critical of the domestic politics’
focus on debates pertaining to Article 301. Reactions, similar to
those directed in connection with the freedoms in Article 301, were
not shown when there was a breach of the press’ freedom, Koc remarked.

Attending a panel concerning Article 301 and Armenian genocide at the
Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences, CHP Deputy Chairman
Onur Oymen said that their party was against the abolishment of Article
301. "If the abolishment of this article implies freedom to denigrate
Turkishness or insulting Turkey, Turkishness, and the Turkish nation,
our party is against it," Oymen maintained. Recalling that articles
similar to Article 301 are readily found in the legislation of
many European countries and a number of people have been tried and
sentenced under such articles, Oymen claimed that Article 301 of the
TPC is compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human
Rights prohibiting denigration and insulting.

Oymen also alleged that the government’s move for amending Article
301 is guided by external powers. "What Turkey needs is not in the
laws, but in reforming the judiciary," Oymen said, and added, "and in
this connection, we demand that parliamentary immunities be abolished
and the practice of inclusion of a Justice Minister official in the
appointment of judges and prosecutors be halted."

–Boundary_(ID_kOv3Mz8ZH2oBPbYBl6dA Yw)–