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NGOs propose changes to Turkey’s freedom-curbing law 9 février 2007

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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Associated Press Worldstream

February 8, 2007 Thursday, Ankara

A group of activists on Thursday submitted a proposal to the government to amend Turkey’s infamous article 301 of the penal code, which has been used to prosecute intellectuals and has been blamed for the killing of a journalist.

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and slain ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink were both prosecuted under the broad law that bans the denigration of « Turkishness. » Both had spoken out about the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century. Numerous other writers, journalists and academics have also been prosecuted.

Dink, the editor of the minority Agos newspaper, was shot dead outside his Istanbul office on Jan. 19. His murder revived a debate about the need to change the problematic article. Many blamed article 301 for his slaying, saying his prosecution had made him a target for ultranationalist groups.

On Thursday, a group of trade unions and other nongovernmental organizations proposed a new wording to the article, which they said sets clearer limits for what would constitute insult and what would constitute criticism.

There was no immediate reaction from the government, which has said it is willing to amend the article but is waiting for recommendations from civil society groups.

Newspapers, however, have criticized the proposed amendment saying it would not put a stop to the prosecutions.

The proposal, among other things, replaces « insulting Turkishness » with wording that would translate as « openly abasing and deriding » Turkishness.

« In its existing form (the article) is too vague and open to interpretations, » said Davut Okutcu, who heads the Istanbul-based Economic Development Foundation. « There was a need for a wording purified of vague expressions which would not open the way to unnecessary prosecution. »

Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in literature last year, also had faced trial in Turkey for his comments on the Armenian killings and had been accused of treason for doing so. His case was thrown out on a technicality.

Dink’s murder inspired a massive outpouring of support for liberal values, including freedom of expression, tolerance and reconciliation between Armenians and Turks,

But the killing also pointed to Turkey’s continuing problems with extreme nationalism. Most Turks suspect the killing might be linked to ultranationalist groups.

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