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Turkey9 April 2008

Amendments to article 301 on “Turkish identity” fail to satisfy

Reporters Without Borders is not satisfied by the bill presented on 7 April by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the revision of two controversial articles in the criminal code - article 301, which punishes “humiliation of the Turkish identity, the Republic and the institutions and organs of the state,” and article 305, which punishes “any action against major national interests.”

Under the amendments submitted to parliament, “Turkish nation” replaces “Turkish identity” and “Turkish Republic” replaces “Republic,” while the president would henceforth be the only person who could initiate prosecutions based on these articles.

“We reiterate our desire to see article 301 repealed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The amendments proposed by the Justice and Development Party still leave too much scope for misuse of these articles and for prosecutions against the news media.”

Since taking effect on 1 June 2005, article 301 has enabled the authorities to apply a great deal of pressure on the media. Many people, especially journalists and writers, have been prosecuted under the article.

The government said its chief reason for presenting the bill was “the freedom of expression guaranteed in the 1982 constitution.” But the proposed amendments are not satisfactory. Long prison sentences are maintained for dissident views, while more than 20 articles continue to restrict press freedom in Turkey.

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