MUSTAFA AKYOL > Hopefully, less journalists will be in jail

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Anybody who follows Turkey’s affairs must be familiar with the problem of “jailed journalists.” Despite being a democratic and at least “partially free” country, Turkey has managed to break the record for the number of scribes in prison. That seems to imply that Turkey must be a worse place than Russia, China or Iran, which does not seem to make sense. So, the whole “jailed journalists” issue is not just discouraging but also confusing.

Yet, there is a simple way to understand this complicated issue: By taking a look at the Anti-Terrorism Law, which was first enacted in 1991, when Turkey was still heavily under the influence the military and the militarist mindset. This law, which was amended several times over the years, still has draconian articles that easily turn ideas into crimes.

One key example is Article 6/2, which says: “Those who print or publish leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations shall be punished.”

This particular clause about “print[ing] or publish[ing] leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations” has been the main reason behind the imprisoning of journalists. The overwhelming majority of these people have been accused of committing this “crime” by airing the views of the pro-Kurdish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C), and other terrorist groups. The judiciary has been so heavy-handed that even interviews with the executives of these organizations have at times been considered violations of Article 6/2.

Now, here is the better news: The Turkish government has prepared a large amendment called the “Fourth Judicial Reform Package,” which changes this article in significant ways. For example, instead of “those who print or publish leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations,” the new law will only punish “those who print or publish the leaflets and declarations, which justify, venerate or encourage the aggressive, violent or threatening methods of the terrorist organizations.”

In other words, if a journalist writes something that supports the political arguments of the PKK, or any other terrorist organization, he will not be prosecuted as has been the case so far. He will be prosecuted only if he supports the acts that are terrorist in nature.

A similar amendment will be made in Article 7/2 as well. This article used to penalize “those who make propaganda for terrorist organizations.” This was such a vague and sweeping term that, for years, Turkish prosecutors arrested people for only speaking of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, as “Sayın Öcalan.” (Sayın is a word in Turkish a bit similar to “Mr.,” but implies respect more explicitly.) Similarly, youngsters carrying flags of the PKK or posters of Öcalan in political rallies were arrested for “terrorist propaganda.” (There are thousands of such Kurdish activists in jail right now.)

But the Fourth Judicial Reform Package amends this clause as well. It penalizes the propaganda of only “the methods of the terrorist organizations that include aggression, violence and threats.” In other words, a mere poster of Öcalan will not be a crime anymore. A poster which says, “Go PKK, bomb and kill them” will be.

In other words, the reform seems to be a key effort to have less “thought crimes” in courts, and thus less journalists and activists in jail. When it passes soon, the problems of the Turkish judicial system will still be far from resolved, but an important step forward will have been taken.


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Notice on comments

mara mcglothin

2/19/2013 3:39:39 PM

BLUE DOTTEREL Say what you like about Ozal, because it is a free country. But I can say from personal experience with the man that he was a fine man regardless of being Pro or Anti Kemalist. You can look at the people around a leader to determine how he is viewed and Ozal's personal protection were a fine group of people who obviously loved their PM, Can RTE say the same?

mara mcglothin

2/18/2013 4:46:48 PM

Exactly! HAKAN How long again has it been that the AKP has had every opportunity to do away with all the antiquated laws? Too long! The esteemed PM is using the Penal code to sue people like Kilicdaroglu for honor? and actually winning? Very troubling indeed.

Red Tail

2/17/2013 9:41:52 PM

Lets not worry about the journalists or other people in jail. As long as we dont drink alcohol and women are coverred, all is well.

Blue Dotterel

2/17/2013 7:06:14 PM

Hakan, The Ozal regime was far from pro-Kemalist. It was the first of the anti-Kemalist regimes.

Hakan Salci

2/17/2013 6:31:38 PM

Unbelievable, after over 10 years in power MA attributes the detentions of journalists to laws written by Kemalist regimes rather than the AKP for not changing them. Well guess what Akyol, if you look at the FACTS you will see that in no other period have there been so many journalists under detention in Turkey than there has during the reign of the AKP. Who are you trying to take for a fool? By the way, it was your beloved PM that called Ocalan 'Sayin', now we know why the law is being changed.

Blue Dotterel

2/17/2013 1:35:16 PM

In 1991, Turkey was run by civilian neo-liberals under the Motherland Party (not the military), virtually a precursor to the AKP. Turgut Ozal was President of the country by then. The AKP has been in power for 10 years now and are finally, apparently, making a significant amendment. However, there is nothing to say that it will make any significant difference whatsoever to the number of journalists incarcerated. Many journalists in jail are there because they oppose AKP policies.

Mike Newman

2/17/2013 7:52:13 AM

When a person under the disguise of "journalist" badmouth basic foundations (democracy, human rights) of the Republic of Turkiye and promote Islamism like Mustafa Akyol does relentlessly, there is a segment of the population which easily become opponent of the state and resort to violence, instead of resolving issues and problems they think they have in peaceful, legal and democratic ways. And that very "journalist" turns around start complaining about lack of democratic freedoms.


2/17/2013 2:21:31 AM

It has been tried before. No amount of laws will change mentalities. Erdogan will find ways to intimidate and dominate, no law can fix it. Journalists like yourself should be doing more. After a dacade of AKP rule, they do not deserve kid gloves, unless of course you are intimidated too Mr. Akyol.

Tekion Particle

2/16/2013 6:27:03 PM

What do you suggest Mr MA? Should they repent their sins against the “dear great leader” when they come out let’s say in 40-50 years time. Perhaps, you should preach the jailed journalists that the path to salvation is to praise the lord, I mean PM and AKP.

Johanna Dew

2/16/2013 2:38:57 PM

Civil law must be made and interpreted in good spirit. I don't see that happen in Turkey. Just an illusion.
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