Insult To History, Free Speech


San Antonio Express-News
October 6, 2007 Saturday

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is taking a wise, if preliminary,
step in seeking to amend Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

The article, aptly criticized as a hindrance to free speech, makes
it illegal to "insult Turkishness."

Often, that perceived insult comes in the form of mentioning one
of the country’s most sensitive historical moments: the 1915 mass
killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces that many consider the first
systematic genocide in modern times.

Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk, novelist Elif Shafak and
newspaper editor Hrant Dink were all charged or tried under the code
for talking or writing — sometimes fictionally — about the highly
controversial historic episode.

Dink, an Armenian Turk, was shot to death in January outside the
offices of Agos, the bilingual newspaper he ran.

Turkey has been struggling to overcome a sorry record of human rights
abuses as it seeks to gain entry into the European Union.

Although Gul, elected in August, cannot change policy on his own,
his widely reported support for addressing Article 301 is a step in
the right direction for Turkey.

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