Turkey offers to amend draconian law

The Turkish prime minister says he is ready to amend a law used to prosecute writers, including Nobel prizewinner Orhan Pamuk, in an attempt to head off a crisis with the EU.

    Erdogan invited proposals to make article 301 concrete

    "We are ready for proposals to make article 301 more concrete if there are problems stemming from it being vague," Recep Tayyip

    Erdogan was quoted by state-run Anatolian news agency as saying on Sunday.

       

    "In order to prevent a violation of freedoms ... we are studying several options for how we can handle article 301 in harmony with the spirit of the [EU-oriented] reforms," he said.

       

    The article has raised questions in Europe about the country's commitment to freedom of speech.

       

    The government has been split, some fearing an amendment would lessen the centre-right government's chances of harnessing the rising nationalist vote in general elections next year.

     

    Article 301

     

    The European Commission is expected to lecture Ankara over judicial action against journalists, scholars and writers for expressing peaceful opinions in a progress report on November 8 on Turkey's European Union accession process.

       

    The EU says article 301, which makes it a crime to insult Turkish national identity, unfairly restricts freedom of expression and must be changed.

       

    It has recently been used to bring charges against Pamuk, later dropped, and to convict journalist Hrant Dink for articles about the mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

     

    With elections in November 2007, Erdogan's scope for more reforms has narrowed, especially given rising euroscepticism among Turks weary of EU demands and suspicious that the bloc does not really want to take in their large Muslim nation.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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