More than 100 media employees have stood trial for “insulting the president” since Erdoğan’s election in 2014, according to the RSF.
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has asked Turkey to repeal Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code on “insulting the President,” which it says is systematically abused to persecute journalists.
Releasing a written statement, the RSF noted that the trial of daily BirGün columnist Erk Acarer will start tomorrow for a 2016 article column in which he criticized the way article 299 is abusrsfed and President nd Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to press charges against a young protester.
Used above all against journalists and what they write in newspaper reports, articles and books, Article 299 has been maintained in the criminal code despite the reforms carried out in 2005 with the aim of facilitating Turkey’s admission to the European Union (EU), and despite the call by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for its repeal in 2016, said the RSF.
|Turkish Penal Code Article 299 – Insulting the President of the Republic(1) Any person who insults the President of the Republic shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of one to four years.(2) Where the offense is committed in public, the sentence to be imposed shall be increased by one-sixth.(3) The initiation of a prosecution for such offense shall be subject to the permission of the Minister of Justice.|
Since Erdoğan became president in 2014, RSF’s Turkey representative has observed more than 100 trials of media representatives, of whom 61 were given prison sentences (sometimes suspended) under Article 299, it further noted.
“It is time for the Turkish authorities to repeal this repressive and anti-democratic lèse-majesté legislation and comply with international law,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Onderoğlu said.
“Misuse of Article 299 with the aim of suppressing all criticism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan constitutes a serious constraint on the right to inform and the right of access to public interest information,” he added.
But, in practice, Turkey’s courts constantly and systematically abuse this article to persecute writers, reporters, columnists and editors. In the past six years, such leading media figures as Sedat Ergin (Hürriyet), Özgür Mumcu (former Cumhuriyet columnist), Can Dündar (former Cumhuriyet editor now living in self-imposed exile in Germany), Barış İnce (BirGün) and Ahmet Altan (former Taraf editor) have all been prosecuted, noted Önderoğlu.
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. (HA/VK)