Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A battle, but not the war

The Turkish government has dropped charges against novelist Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk had been charged with "insulting Turkishness" for mentioning the Armenian genocide in a magazine interview - but it seems that pressure from the EU has led to a change of heart from the government. But while this is an important victory for freedom of speech in Turkey, it is not the war. The charges have been dropped in one case, but the law is still on the books. As Pamuk's friend and translator Maureen Freely notes,

In two weeks time there are going to be eight new trials opening...

More than 60 writers and publishers (and one Euro MP) are facing similar charges - and this in a country which has promised to respect freedom of expression! Clearly, Turkey is failing to keep its promise - and the EU should make it clear that there will be no hope of membership until it does.


I/S, what do you think about the laws in lots of EU states that criminalise holocaust denial? Should they be booted out too because that breaches freedom of expression?

Posted by Anonymous : 1/24/2006 09:05:00 AM

As should be clear from my coverage of the Irving case in Austria, I oppose those laws and think they should be repealed. And I am hoping that EU criticism over the Turkish law will draw attention to the beam in their own eye...

OTOH, there's also no question that the Turkish law is worse, firstly because it is explicitly aimed at preventing criticism of the current government and institutions (particularly the military), and secondly because there is simply no factual benchmark against which guilt or innocence can be measured - what is "insulting" is whatever the judge (or a bunch of rabid nationalist lawyers) decides it to be. In this particular case, what is "insulting" is also true - but in many ways that's simply a red herring. It's not about using criminal sanctions to enforce truth and falsehood, it's about people being free to say what they want, and in particular free to criticise their government.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/24/2006 10:11:00 AM