On July 7 the Vienna-based Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of
the Media issued a press release on the amendments to Turkey’s Penal Code, adopted
by the parliament of the country on June 29. Praising the amendments made, the
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti stressed at the
same time that “despite some improvements, the amendments for not sufficiently
eliminate threats to freedom of expression and to a free press”.
According to the expert assessment, presented by the Office of the OSCE Representative
in May, 23 provisions were to be revoked from Turkey’s Penal Code. Seven provisions
have been brought into line with media freedom principles, the press-release
noted, and “the deletion of most of the provisions which assumed stronger sanctions
when the media was involved” is approved.
In particular, the OSCE Representative welcomed the fact that Article 305 (offences
against fundamental national interests) of the Penal Code of Turkey no longer
stipulated criminal liability in two cases: when a demand is made to withdraw
Turkish troops from Northern Cyprus and when it is claimed that Armenians were
exposed to genocide.
At the same time Miklos Haraszti noted that in three major areas the media
freedom remains endangered, namely: the right of journalists to report and discuss
on public-interest issues is not secured; restrictions on access and disclosure
of information have not been lifted; defamation and insult provisions remain
a criminal rather than a civil offence, thereby leaving the free discussion
of public affairs at risk.
The OSCE Representative expressed his hope that modernization of Turkish Penal
Code would continue in the spirit of improving the freedom of public scrutiny,
while the provisions promoting self-censorship would all be removed.