Criticism ‘within journalistic boundaries’ won’t be regarded as crime: Turkey to EU

Criticism ‘within journalistic boundaries’ won’t be regarded as crime: Turkey to EU

Criticism ‘within journalistic boundaries’ won’t be regarded as crime: Turkey to EU

A position paper submitted by Ankara to the European Union aiming to secure visa liberalization includes a vow that “critical expressions of governmental acts” will not be considered a crime “if they are within the boundaries of journalism,” daily Cumhuriyet has reported. 

Turkey has long been under strong criticism from the EU and other international organizations for restricting freedom of expression through stringent anti-terror laws.

The submission of the position paper comes as part of prolonged negotiations between Ankara and Brussels during visa liberalization procedures for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area in return for Turkey’s implementation of the Readmission Agreement. To this end, Turkey has accomplished 65 criteria of 72 and on Feb. 7 introduced a roadmap on how it plans to fulfill the remaining seven conditions through a letter to the EU Commission. 

According to Cumhuriyet, a legal provision in Turkey’s Criminal Code concerning journalistic activities will be annexed to the Anti-Terror Law in a bid to overcome the biggest hurdle between the two sides. With the amendment, the Anti-Terror Law will include a provision stating that “any critical expression that does not exceed the boundaries of journalism does not constitute a crime.” The government claims that this provision will ensure that no journalists can be prosecuted for his or her journalistic activities. 

The position paper includes a number of other articles, reported by Cumhuriyet as follows: 

- Turkey will implement the provision stipulating full implementation of the Readmission Agreement, with all its articles, at the last stage when bilateral visa-liberalization is provided. It is stated that Turkey has implemented the readmission agreement de facto since March 18, 2016, within the scope of the agreement with Greece. 

- Turkey will announce that it will start delivering biometric passports from April 2.

- Steps will be taken to harmonize with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body. Within this perspective, an amendment will be made to the Political Parties Law. Within the GRECO, Turkey needs to make certain regulations over fight against corruption and bribery. 

- Turkey is ready for negotiations for collaboration with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL). The paper states that if Ankara had conveyed this roadmap before May 1, 2017 the collaboration agreement with EUROPOL could have been settled more easily. However, the EU changed its bylaw on that date and all EU members now have to approve the agreement. These negotiations are expected to last for more than a year. 

- Turkey implemented a new privacy act in 2016 for visa liberalization but the EU found it to be insufficient. Turkey promised a regulation in the law, stating that it will re-address the particular regulations in Article 6, 19 and 28 of the law and it will strengthen the independence of the institution with the new regulations. 

- In the position paper Ankara also stressed that it will continue to not recognize Greek Cyprus. It added that it is ready for collaboration with EU members on various a range of issues but will leave it the European Commission on finding a solution for the Cyprus issue.

European Union, visa liberation,