Turkey's government to update terror law for press freedom
BOLU - Doğan News Agency
Deputy PM Arınç says he feels sorry for jailed scribes. AA photo
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Dec. 15 that Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law would be reinterpreted in order to secure press freedom.
“We agree on making more up-to-date interpretations of propaganda in articles 6 and 7 [of the Anti-Terror Law, which declares printing announcements of or making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization a crime]. We think an article, a report or a speech may not constitute a crime as long as it does not provoke violence or arming,” Arınç said at the “Future of Media and Communications in Turkey” conference held by the Media Council of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) in Bolu Dec. 14 to 16.
During the conference, he remarked on the recent debates about press freedom and arrested journalists in Turkey.
“There have been two international delegations in Turkey recently to observe the situation of the media; one from the International Press Institute (IPI) and one from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). As the government we are speaking to them and trying to explain the situation. The CPJ has amended its number of arrested journalists, perhaps thanks to those contacts, from 76 to 46, which I believe is still not correct. Yet the numbers are not relevant; I feel sorry if there is even one journalist in jail because of what he [or she] has written or said. Unfortunately, given the laws we have, arrested journalists are a fact today. As the government we have already made some changes in the Turkish Penal Code to make the arrest of journalists and writers difficult for reasons like trying to influence justice by publishing a document, etc.,” he said.
Arınç said the real difficulty was with the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). “It is not possible for us to nix the TMK at a time when terrorist actions hurt people deeply. Actually, other than the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], no one wants to nix it totally. What we are considering now is to change the sixth and seventh articles of the TMK, the reason why many journalists are in prison accused of terrorism charges. We are considering changing the definition of propaganda in such a way that propaganda will no longer be a crime unless it praises violence, terrorism, armed action, etc. That should be in a way not to weaken the fight against terrorism. We have discussed the issue in the Cabinet meeting and the draft is on my desk. I hope we will make the change soon.”
Turkey has more journalists in jail than any other country, followed by Iran and China, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Dec. 10.
The number of journalists in prison reached a record high this year, as critical reporters and editors have been charged with “terrorism” and other crimes against the state, the New York-based group said.
“We are living in an age when anti-state charges and ‘terrorist’ labels have become the preferred means that governments use to intimidate, detain and imprison journalists,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement.
Seventy-one journalists still remain behind bars in Turkish prisons, journalists from the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) said, adding they were concerned about the current state of press freedom in the country, during a meeting of the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) held Dec. 5.