ANKARA: Freedom House Sees Improvements In Press Freedom


Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Aug 4 2007

There has been impressive progress in Turkey’s freedom of the press in
the past decade despite lingering concerns, a Freedom House official
has said.

Paula Schriefer, speaking at a session on press freedom at the US
Congress, also said the biggest obstacle for freedom of the press is
Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which has been used in the
prosecution of a number of intellectuals and activists since its
enactment in June 2005.

Freedom House, a Washington-based organization advocating expansion
of freedoms, describes Turkey as "partly free" in the 2007 edition
of its annual survey, "Freedom in the World." Turkey received a three
(on a scale of one to seven, with seven as the lowest) for political
rights and a three for civil liberties.

Schriefer told the hearing — hosted by the US Commission on Security
and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission – that
Turkey had received a score of 49 in a global Freedom House index of
press freedoms, up from 74 in 1996 and 58 in 2000. Countries with the
lowest scores (0-30) are ranked as "free" in the Freedom House report.

In its 2007 freedom of the press report, Freedom House says
constitutional provisions for freedom of the press and of expression
are only partially upheld in practice. It complains that Article 301’s
restrictive measures have increasingly undermined press freedom in
Turkey, noting that some 72 individuals were tried in 2006 under the
infamous code for "insulting Turkishness."

Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, slain by a nationalist
gunman in January, had been prosecuted twice under Article 301 for
his comments on the issue of an alleged Armenian genocide. On the
other hand, similar charges brought against Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel
Prize-winning Turkish novelist, were dropped in January 2006 when the
Justice Ministry denied prosecution of the case because the new penal
code was not yet in effect at the time Pamuk made the statements for
which he was charged.

The report also notes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan’s defamation
suits against members of the media. Erdoðan filed 59 cases in 2006,
according to the report. It also expressed concern over amendments
to the anti-terror law, approved in June, that allow for imprisoning
journalists up to three years for the dissemination of statements
and propaganda by terrorist organizations. "The new legislation
raises concerns that the broad definition of terrorism could allow
for arbitrary prosecutions," it says.