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RIGHTS > Media freedom up to ‘public morals’?

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Justice and Development Party (AKP) proposal of bringing “public morals” as a criterion in the Constitution article rises reactions from opposition parties

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This archive photo shows thousands of people protesting against the arrests of journalists due to their reports in Turkey. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

This archive photo shows thousands of people protesting against the arrests of journalists due to their reports in Turkey. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Göksel Bozkurt Göksel Bozkurt goksel.bozkurt@hurriyet.com.tr

Triggering concern over the possible impact on media freedoms, members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have proposed bringing “public morals” back as a criterion in the Constitution article on freedom of speech and thought in the Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Council.

The suggestion would allow the government to limit media freedom in a variety of scenarios, as the criterion of public morals would be used in cases concerning “expression of thought via speech, writings, pictures or other means,” the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

If the idea is accepted by the council and added into the Constitution it will mean a step-back in regards to reforms carried out as part of the European Union accession process.

The reference to “public morals” within Article 13 of the 1982 Constitution, which is a legacy of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état, was deleted as part of EU reforms back in 2001.

Within the constitutional amendments made as part of EU reforms, the deletion of “public morals” from Article 13, on the general grounds that it restricted all rights and freedoms, was regarded as the most important arrangement.

Members of the Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission are currently on leave until Aug. 1. All four political parties are supposed to submit their opinions on the articles of the fundamental rights and freedoms chapter which have not been debated yet before July 25. The commission will hold its next meeting on Aug. 1.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Sezgin Tanrıkulu vowed yesterday that the CHP would strongly oppose the AKP’s proposal.

“This proposal reveals that the AKP is not in favor of press freedom. It also shows that the main objective of the AKP is not a libertarian constitution. We will strongly oppose this proposal. Several bans on the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law are not enough for the AKP and they are attempting to include them in the Constitution, this is unacceptable,” Tanrıkulu said at a press conference in the Parliament.

Altan Tan, a panel member from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), also denounced the AKP proposal. He stressed the BDP would oppose the move during talks at the Commission as well.

“People’s individual security should be taken into consideration, rather than national security. We will oppose this proposal at the Commission,” Tan told the Daily News in a telephone interview.

Faruk Bal of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) declined to comment on the issue when approached by the Daily News, but stressed that his party would reveal their position during talks at the Constitution Conciliation Commission.

July/14/2012

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mara mcglothin

7/17/2012 5:02:24 PM

Once again Spot on CHRIS GREEN! This new constitution was to be more democratic and it is turning into something else. I do believe that the train Mr Erdogan is on is finally approaching his "stop". Turks must unite to stop this travesty. More democracy for all not less. SELIM Get a grip! You cannot legislate morality, that is between one and their God. Period.

Diren Sesel

7/15/2012 12:45:00 AM

@ Selim , to be a part of EU is to be part of civilized union of common values , EU should not be just economical but means to a higher, brigter society.

Selim Bisevac

7/14/2012 9:38:59 PM

European Union ? Who would want to join it anyway, Europe is bankrupt and toothless. It amazes me how quickly people oppose Morals as a basis in laws in today's world . Western nations have lost all morality and there media is controlled exclusively by the Israeli Zionist movement. Do your research and see who owns the media in the USA?

Rimon Tree

7/14/2012 4:53:40 PM

@Edward Who is going to enforce? Ask the Saudis or Iran!

Chris Green

7/14/2012 1:42:23 PM

Whether anti- or Pro EU, this is not the issue. What IS the issue is that Ak Parti are nervous about being held to media scrutiny and Erdogan himself especially so. If Turkey are to continue in their emergence as a major power, then freedom of speech and expression for all members of Turkish society in general should be enshrined in law and let us not forger that Turkish journalists are citizens too!

euro person

7/14/2012 12:17:06 PM

Who is going to decide and enforce the criterion of public morals? For example Saudi Arabia has it's League for Public Morality also known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice along with the Mutaween religious police to enforce Sharia law. Iran uses it's Basij militia to the same effect.

Diren Sesel

7/14/2012 4:25:22 AM

The danger keeps on rising, AKP portrays it self as pro-European but underneath its anti-European.
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