English PEN gives a qualified welcome to the changes to Article 301 of Turkey’s Penal Code under which hundreds of people, among them many writers and journalists, have been brought to trial since it was introduced three years ago. Yet it is disappointed that the law itself has not been repealed. The changes limit the scope of ‘offences’ that can be prosecuted under this law, reduce the maximum penalty and make it more difficult to bring cases to prosecution. Yet it remains that commentary seen to be ‘insulting’ to state institutions, such as the judiciary, the military and even individual officials, can still be penalised with prison terms of up to two years.
At present, PEN is monitoring the trials of around 25 writers, journalists and publishers under Article 301 who have written on issues ranging from criticism of the Turkish armed forces, to suggesting that there had been a genocide against Armenians at the turn of the last century. One such case is that of publisher Ragip Zarakolu, one of the first to be prosecuted under this law, whose trial opened in August 2005 and which is still dragging on almost three years later. He is accused for the publication of Professor Dora Sakayan’s An Armenian Doctor in Turkey: Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922.
English PEN hopes that the changes to Article 301 will lead to the review and dismissal of current cases, and an end to further trials. PEN has been calling for Article 301 to be removed from Turkish legislation completely since it was in draft form in 2004. PEN has been staging a global campaign calling for the repeal of all laws that treat defamation as a criminal, rather than a civil, offence, and argues that the term ‘insult’ is too vague to have any legal standing as a charge and should thus be scrapped from penal codes entirely.
PEN is monitoring the cases of around 75 other writers, journalists and publishers who are imprisoned or on trial under other laws in Turkey. These include those on insult to the memory of Ataturk, promoting conscientious objection, inciting religious enmity, and certain articles of the Anti Terror Law that penalise, for example, propaganda for an illegal organisation. PEN is concerned that many of these trials have been brought in breach of the right to freedom of expression and is calling for a review of all such laws with the aim of bringing them into accord with international human rights standards.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeyarticle301reformsdontgofarenough/