Baydemir, Bell and Blasphemy against the state

Article 301 of the Turkish Constitution makes it illegal to insult the Turkish nation.  Though amended in April 2008 there was little change.  The original draft of 301 (from 2005) made it illegal to ‘insult Turkishness.’  ‘Turkishness’ was changed to ‘the Turkish nation’ in the amended version.  I fail to see any measurable difference between the two. The law is so vague that it can be applied arbitrarily to criminalise a huge range of critical opinions.

Hundreds have faced charges of insulting the Turkish nation including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, journalist Hrant Dink, and author Elif Şafak.  The maximum sentence under the ‘new’ 301 is two years, with the possibility of a suspended sentence for first time offenders.

Last week Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir let off a few expletives while giving a speech in front of the BDP office there.  Now dubbed the ‘Swearing Dove’ in some Turkish media outlets, Baydemir said in reference to the mass arrests of former DTP members and Kurdish activists, ‘In the name of the state, we have a message for the government. Do not discriminate against us as hawks or doves. F… you, I say, f… you.’

Ahmet İyimaya, head of Parliament’s Constitution Commission, said Friday that Baydemir’s  statement on Thursday violated Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code.

İyimaya said its place in the criminal code could be found in Article 301: “Verbal provocation against the Republic is a crime and legislation will decide its punishment.”

Baydemir has already faced hundreds of charges under various articles of the Turkish Criminal Code.  No suspended sentence likely for him.

Jim Bell, Exec Producer, NBC's Today Show

However, there is a likely candidate for a suspended sentence.  That is Mr Jim Bell, executive producer of NBC’s Today Show.  The last line of the ATAA-drafted letter to Bell admonishing him for his transgression in allowing ‘Kurdistan’ to be used on a map, reads: NBC Today Show should immediately correct this issue and apologize for insulting the Turkish nation.

Clearly a case of a violation of Article 301.  Sounds to me as though Mr Bell could be the next litigant in the Turkish court system for denigrating the Turkish nation.  And while the law allows for an increase in the prison sentence if the media is used in the insult, he’s probably a first time offender.

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