The Criminalization of Dissent, Again

John Stewart take note.  You probably aren’t welcome in Turkey.

After all, in Turkey, criticism of public officials that is routine elsewhere is treated as a crime.  When politicians are criticized, friendly prosecutors can be relied upon to use Article 125, an anti-defamation statute, to punish political opponents ranging from respected journalists to school children.

As Amnesty International recently reported:

Article 125 is frequently used to prosecute criticism of the actions of politicians and other public officials, despite authoritative interpretations of international freedom of expression standards that require public officials to withstand greater public criticism than private citizens. Journalists exposing human rights abuses and commenting critically on the actions of public officials are  particularly at risk of prosecution. Prosecutors typically initiate investigations following complaints by public officials, who later bring civil claims for damages in addition to seeking a criminal conviction.  The Prime Minister in particular has brought a number of cases under this provision.

In the most recent case, a leading figure of Turkish journalism, Ahmet Altan, was convicted for an article he wrote in the daily, Taraf.

As noted in previous posts, these attacks on dissent are unlikely to silence a leading journalist like Altan.  But they have a chilling effect on freedom of the press overall.  Perhaps that is why we are treated to cooking shows and penguins while Turkish streets fill with tear gas.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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