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Twenty-one IFEX members appeal for support in campaign to repeal Article 301

(IPA/WiPC/IFEX) - The following is a joint action statement signed by 21 IFEX members and other organisations:

IN MEMORY OF HRANT DINK, 21 IFEX MEMBERS URGE THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES TO ABOLISH ARTICLE 301 TPC

We, the undersigned,

- Saddened by the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist and founder of the "Agos" newspaper, Hrant Dink, on 19 January 2007;

- Recalling that Hrant Dink had been condemned to a six-month suspended sentence for having "insulted Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code;

- Considering that the criminalisation of insult and defamation is in conflict with international standards that guarantee the right to freedom of expression in that it discourages free debate on the function of official institutions, and that the term "insult" is too vague to have any standing as a legal charge, being too easily interpreted to meet the needs of those in authority and being potentially used as another means of preventing open discourse on sensitive issues;

- Therefore, observing that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is used to suppress the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Turkey is a party;

- Considering that defamation and/or insult laws cannot be justified if their purpose or effect is to protect the "reputations" of entities other than those that have the right to sue and to be sued;

- Supporting the ECHR case law according to which defamation laws cannot be justified if their effect or purpose is to prevent legitimate criticism of officials or the exposure of official wrongdoing or corruption;

- Pointing out that those charged for "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 have become targets for extremists, many of whom have suffered verbal and physical attacks outside courtrooms, culminating in the tragic events of 19 January;

- Welcoming that the authorities have now offered police protection for others who have been charged under these laws;

- Believing that the discontinuance of the court hearings and the dropping of the offence of "insulting Turkishness" will serve to reduce the likelihood of any further tragedies;

Urge the Turkish authorities to:

- Abolish Article 301 of the Penal Code entirely;

- Remove once and for all any articles that can be used to suppress the rights enshrined under Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 10 of the ECHR (e.g. Law 5816).

The following IFEX members have endorsed the above statement:

International Publishers Association (IPA)
Writers in Prison Committee, International PEN
ARTICLE 19
World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Freedom House
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
PEN Norway
Index on Censorship
Hong Kong Journalists Association (HJKA)
Dutch Association of Journalists
Observatoire pour la Liberté de Presse, d'édition et de création (OLPEC)
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)
Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES)
Independent Journalism Center-Moldova
BIANET
Greek Helsinki Monitor
International Federation of Journalists

Other organisations that have endorsed this statement:

Freemuse (Freedom of Musical Expression)
English PEN
International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN)
PEN Flanders
San Miguel de Allende PEN
Russian PEN
Danish PEN

International Publishers Association
PEN International

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