Nice for diplomats

The European Union will be happy: finally Turkey will change article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code – at least the proposed change has been announced. Article 301 makes it illegal to insult ‘Turkishness’, and many journalists, writers and publishers have been brought to court for violating this article – when in fact all they did was express their opinion. Everybody attaches so much importance to article 301 that you could believe changing it will actually really help enhance freedom of expression. Sorry to disappoint you: the problem is not 301. The problem is the way for example nationalistic lawyers or state institutions take people to court who are brave enough to question the official Turkish opinion on, for example, the Kurdish question or the murders of Armenians almost a hundred years ago. When article 301 is changed, other articles will be found to take writers and publishers to court. Article 216, for example, which is already used for that purpose. It forbids ‘setting people against each other’, which can be broadly interpreted, just like ‘Turkishness’ in article 301. Changing 301 is in fact not much more than a strategic matter in Turkey’s campaign to join the EU. Of course, it’s not a coincidence that changes were announced just after the EU decided to open two new chapters in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. Nice for diplomats and politicians, but hardly useful for prosecuted writers and journalists.

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