Free speech in Turkey crucial for peace: Amnesty International

Free speech in Turkey crucial for peace: Amnesty International

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Free speech in Turkey crucial for peace: Amnesty International

‘The draft package fails to bring Turkey’s freedom of speech standards into line with the Turkish people’s expectations,’ Amnesty’s Gardner (C) says. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Amnesty International (AI) has launched a global campaign urging the Turkish government to amend 11 articles within the Turkish Criminal Code, anti-terror laws, and the Constitution in the 4th judicial package. While it has expressed its hope for the ongoing peace process, it has also stressed that freedom of expression is particularly crucial during the currently process.

The report, released March 27, said freedom of expression is under attack in Turkey.

“The right to freedom of expression is under attack in Turkey. Hundreds of abusive prosecutions are brought against activists, journalists, writers and lawyers. It is one of Turkey’s most entrenched human rights problems,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

The report, titled “Turkey, Decriminalize Dissent, Time to Deliver on the Right to Freedom of Expression,” which is based on research that has included observing scores of trials, was announced by Dalhuisen, Director of AI’s Turkey branch Murat Çekiç, and AI’s Turkey official in Istanbul Andrew Gardner.

Gardner said they were hopeful about Turkey’s ongoing peace process, but warned that it would not be possible to make progress without freedom of expression regarding the Kurdish issue.

“This report is an urgent call to the government to amend the 4th judicial package to bring Turkey’s laws into line with international human rights standards. The government promised that the draft package would deliver this. However, it fails to do so and fails to bring Turkey’s freedom of speech standards into line with the expectations of the Turkish people,” Gardner told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“In order to be a just, lasting peace, and in order for this peace process to be successful, freedom of expression is critical. People have to be able discuss these issues, they have to be able to talk about the past, they have to be able to criticize the government and promote what they want. Freedom of expression is a critical issue for peace, that’s what we are waiting for from the Turkish government,” he added.

'Statements attacking journalists very concerning'

A campaign titled “Not With This Law,” based on a website “,” is aiming to gather petitions to call on the Turkish government to amend and repeal particular articles within its regulations.

The group demands an amendment to the laws regarding “denigrating the Turkish Nation,” “alienating the public from military service,” “praising a crime or a criminal,” “criminal defamation,” “incitement to hatred or hostility,” and “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organization.”

Changes need to affect all anti-terrorism prosecutions, Gardner said, emphasizing that AI was not calling for any kind of partial amnesty for ongoing prosecutions.

“What we need is a genuine human rights reform that addresses the problems that have resulted in people being unfairly prosecuted,” he said, when asked about prominent cases such as Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer).

Gardner also said AI was hopeful, as the government had made positive statements recently on the issue. He said if these legal changes took place it would be a very important step in the right direction, but added there were also other problems.

Also very concerning to Gardner are “the government’s statements attacking individual journalists, the government’s regulations that result in websites being censored because of items posted on them.”

If passed by Parliament in its present form, the 4th judicial package would represent another missed opportunity to deliver genuine human rights reform, John Dalhuisen said.

Ali Abaday, from the Istanbul bureau, contributed to this report.