ANKARA: Turkish PM Says He Favours Changing Free Speech Law


Turkish Press
May 15 2007

ISTANBUL – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday
he favoured amending a widely criticised law used to prosecute dozens
of intellectuals, but did not say when his government would do so.

"We are not resisting (changes) to Article 301. If we get a reasonable
proposal, we can work on it," Erdogan told the annual assembly of
media watchdog International Press Institute (IPI) in Istanbul.

Article 301 calls for jail terms of between six months and three years
for "denigrating Turkishness," the Republic and state institutions such
as the government, parliament, the judiciary and the security forces,
and requires an increased penalty if the crime is committed abroad.

Dozens of intellectuals, among them 2006 Nobel literature laureate
Orhan Pamuk, have been charged under the article, mostly for contesting
the official line on the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman

The law has also been blamed for fueling nationalist hatred towards
ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was convicted under the
article and was gunned down in January by a suspected ultra-nationalist
after receiving threats.

The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, has slammed the
article on many occasions as a threat to freedom of speech and has
urged Ankara to either amend or scrap it.

In a resolution adopted Monday at its general assembly, the IPI urged
Turkey to revise Article 301 and purge its penal code of "all articles
used to restrict journalists` ability to report freely and express
their opinion."

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