Intellectuals warn controversial Article 301 resurrected in form of Article 299

Todays Zaman
Fecha de publicación: 
05 Oct 2015

A number of prominent intellectuals have warned that the notorious article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which was amended by Parliament in 2008, has been resurrected in the form of TCK Article 299, which is frequently being used as the basis for cases where there are charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Article 301, which was being used to punish well-known journalists, publishers and scholars on the charge of insulting the Turkish state, its officials or “Turkishness,” was harshly criticized by rights groups, activists and the European Union for limiting free speech. The disputed provision was changed in Parliament in May 2008.

However, tens of intellectuals -- who has recently launched a campaign against Article 299, as it constitutes the basis for hundreds of ongoing trials launched against many intellectuals and citizens for insulting Erdoğan -- are now concerned that Turkey is going backwards. The intellectuals say Article 301, which victimized many people in the recent past, has now been resurrected in the form of TCK 299. “And it [Article 299] does it in a worse way [than Article 301],” the intellectuals warned.

They further highlight in their signature campaign that just like Article 301, Article 299 is also being used to intimidate people who are critical of the government, but the aims of two articles are different. “Now, the goal is not protect ‘Turkishness,' but to protect Erdoğan's ‘One Man' project,” they added.

“In today's state of the law, the crime of insult against individuals is excluded from the scope of the penal code, this crime is considered within the scope of tort law cases and is punished with private law sanctions,” the campaign reads; however, the group of intellectuals adds that Article 299 carries the charge of insulting Erdoğan beyond the scope of an individual-based crime and seeks up to four years imprisonment for those who criticize him publicly.

Article 301 made it a crime to “insult Turkishness” and was punishable by up to three years in jail for offenders; while Article 299 of the TCK states that any person who publicly defames the government of the Turkish Republic, or the judicial institutions of the state or its military or security organizations, shall be sentenced to six months to two years imprisonment.

The group highlighted that an amendment was introduced to Article 301 in 2008, which stipulated that authorization from the Ministry of Justice must be sought before an investigation can be opened. However, Article 299 does not even have this partial protection as part of its text as the amendment to Article 301 did. A prosecutor can now launch an investigation and arrest persons without the need for permission from the ministry or any other body under Article 299.

Comparing President Erdoğan's term with his predecessor's, Abdullah Gül, the intellectuals highlighted that no one was arrested under Article 299 despite 545 insult cases being filed during Gül's seven-year term, while 14 individuals have been arrested and 282 people have faced investigations over the one-year period Erdoğan has served as president.

Among those intellectuals who signed the campaign are Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Abdulhamit Bilici; Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş; academics, Baskın Oran, Büşra Ersanlı, Doğu Ergil ,Cengiz Aktar, Ersin Kalaycıoğlu, Ferhat Kentel; journalists Doğan Özgüden, Hasan Cemal, Yavuz Baydar, Cengiz Çandar and Yasemin Çongar; politicians Selina Doğan, Akın Birdal, Emre Kocaoğlu, Nesrin Nas and Ufuk Uras; former ministers Tarhan Erdem and Ertuğrul Günay; lawyers Yücel Sayman, Ercan Kanar, Erdal Doğan, Sennur Baybuğa, Hüsnü Öndül, Tamar Çıtak, Kemal Akkurt, Kazım Genç, Bozkurt Kemal Yücel, Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu and Ahmet Hulusi Kırım.