Friday, April 11, 2008

Hardly a Dramatic Change

Despite all of the yelling and screaming by members of MHP and CHP, the AKP proposal it introduced to Parliament on Monday will not address the fundamental problem of freedom of expression in Turkey.

The proposal makes three substantive changes: first, it will require that prosecutors seek the approval of the president before opening a case; second, it changes the crime from one of insulting "Turkishness" to one of insulting the "Turkish nation"; third, it reduces the maximum sentence to two years from three, the significance being that two-year sentences can be suspended. Even if the changes are made, there are numerous other articles in the Turkish Penal Code under which to prosecute individuals (see Jan. 26 post). As Today's Zaman writes, this miscellany of restrictions on free speech in the penal code (not to mention various other laws not included in the penal code) provides ample flexibility to zealous prosecutors looking to punush intellectuals for speech with which they disagree.

Although the proposal has been submitted to Parliament, it has been held back from the parliament's Justice Commission by CHP deputy speaker Güldal Mumcu. It will likely be introduced next week and will reach the General Assembly following its approval by the Justice Commission.

The AKP executive committe drafted the proposal in February and has since been sitting on it(see Feb. 15 post).

For more commentary from those displeased with the reform bill, see yesterday's article in Today's Zaman.

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