Turkey: Lost Opportunity for Freedom of Expression

PRESS RELEASE, Thursday 14 December


English PEN expresses alarm that the stalling of EU negotiations with Turkey, over Cypriot traffic accessing Turkish ports, will have serious consequences for freedom of expression in Turkey.

There had been high hopes that this latest round of EU negotiations would prompt the Turkish Government to amend or repeal Article 301 of its Penal Code: the article on ‘insulting Turkishness’, which has been the basis of around a dozen prosecutions over the past 18 months, including that of the new Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk.

Now Article 301 looks likely to remain on the books, with general elections and a presidential change in Turkey in 2007 making it unlikely that another such an opportunity will arise for some time. While the provision remains, writers, journalists and others will continue to face intimidating public show trials and possible sentences, if convicted, of 1 to 5 years in prison.

Prosecutions under Article 301, and other related articles, brought by ‘ultranationalist’ elements opposed to free expression in Turkey, are constantly taking place: today, for example, publisher Ragip Zarakolu is on trial.

These articles are contrary to Turkey’s existing commitments under international human rights instruments. English PEN, among others, believes that such defamation/insult laws are unjustified where they claim to protect the ‘reputations’ of State entities such as ‘the Turkish Grand National Assembly’ or the concept of ‘Turkishness’.

As Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate and Vice-President of English PEN puts it: ‘Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is utterly preposterous and urgently needs to be repealed.’  English PEN deeply regrets that the EU Council of Ministers have not made it a priority issue.


Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeylostopportunityforfreedo/

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