In June 2005, following discussions about Turkey’s possible ascension to the European Council, the Turkish government enacted a new penal code. Since its instatement over a year ago, the code has been used against novelists such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak, and numerous other Turkish writers, publishers, journalists, and academics have also had charges lodged against them.

In light of Turkey’s eligibility for the EU, the European Commission has recently demanded that Turkey meet the commitments it made by the next European Council summit on the 15th of December. Turkey’s commitments include opening its airports and ports to Cypriot traffic, improving human rights, and expanding the right to freedom of expression by amending Article 301 of the penal code–“insulting Turkishness.” In order for the Commission to prepare its report about Turkey’s appointment to the Council, these commitments must be met by the end of the first week of December.

To ensure that PEN’s concerns are heard at this stage of the debate, International PEN issued a joint statement with Article 19 and the International Publisher’s Association calling for the repeal of Article 301.

>> International PEN statement

>> List of writers, publishers, and journalists on trial in Turkey

>> Transcript of “Turkishness” on On the Media

Sample Appeal

[Date]
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
TC Easbakanlik
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: 011 90 312 417 0476

Your Excellencies,

I am writing to express my concern over the many writers, journalists and publishers who continue to be brought before the Turkish Courts under Penal Code Article 301 in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the United Nations International Covenant Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Turkey is a party. Defamation and/or insult laws cannot be justified if their purpose or effect is to protect the “reputations” of entities other than those which have the right to sue and to be sued.

I respectfully urge the Turkish authorities to abolish Article 301 of the Penal Code entirely and remove once and for any and all articles that can be used to suppress the rights enshrined in Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 10 of the ECHR.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
[Your name and signature]

Cc: H.E. Nabi Şensoy
The Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
2525 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 612-6744

More information:
www.antenna-tr.org
www.bianet.org

Anna Kushner (212) 334-1660 ext. 106, ftw@pen.org