Court vindicates columnist for alleged anti-military article
Court Exonerates Columnist for Allegedly Anti-military Article
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office vindicated daily Cumhuriyet columnist Bekir Coşkun of charges leveled against him by Turkey’s General Staff for an article he penned, while CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu also proposed an amendment to nullify a law that prescribes prison terms for insulting the president.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office ruled for lack of venue in the case of daily Cumhuriyet columnist Bekir Coşkun following an official complaint by the General Staff Judge Advocate on the charge that his column entitled “Paşa” had insulted Turkey’s generals.The Chief Prosecutor’s Office decided there was no need to file a criminal suit on the charge of “insulting a civil servant for his/her official duties” against Bekir Coşkun for his column that appeared on the daily Cumhuriyet on April 29, 2012.
The column related a fable about a stray wolf and a dog called “Paşa,” an Ottoman era title still used informally to mean “general.”The article emphasized the idea of freedom and “not giving it up for anything” through citations and a correspondence to La Fontaine’s fable “The wolf and the dog,” the verdict said.The Chief Prosecutor’s Office also denied the existence of an analogy between the dog in Coşkun’s story and any actual persons or institutions.The General Staff Judge Advocate, on the other hand, claimed that the name of the dog in the story and the use of the term “the shiny thing on its shoulder” in reference to the dog’s collar offended the honor and dignity of active duty generals.Columnist Coşkun, however, alleged that he was merely trying to inculcate a love for animals in society through the figure of his own pet dog, and that the idea of him using the concept of a dog as an insult went against the grain.The Chief Prosecutor’s Office also referred to a decision by the General Assembly of the Supreme Court of Appeals dating back to 1959 which indicates that acts of defamation and insult are only deemed as offenses if they target a specific person.
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office further mentioned the 126th article of the Turkish Penal Code that states that an act of insult is deemed as such if the quality of the act in question can unwaveringly be ascertained as being against the victim’s person even if the victim’s name has only been implicitly mentioned in passing and not openly declared. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office thus ruled that Coşkun’s article did not satisfy these criteria either.The article did not humiliate military generals for their duties, and those who believe they were insulted must file a complaint for themselves rather than the General Staff Judge Advocate, whose complaint is not personal, the verdict said.The Chief Prosecutor’s Office then referred to former verdicts passed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and explained that the ECHR gave precedence to the freedom of expression over other individuals’ personal rights in situations where the two were in conflict.”After assessing the writing, the conclusion has been reached that the writer gave voice to nostalgic [sentiments] in the belief that officers are not behaving freely and independently as the public believes, that the expressions regarding the military in a society where the army-nation cult runs strong do not instigate or include violence even if they are severe and shocking, and that [the writing] falls within the scope of the freedom of expression and harsh criticism,” the verdict said.
CHP Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu proposes an amendment
Meanwhile, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, an Istanbul deputy from the opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP,) presented a proposal to Parliament’s presidency on June 19 to amend the 299th article of the Turkish Penal Code that prescribes between one to four years in prison for “insulting the president.”Expanding the scope of the freedom of speech and personal freedoms is among the most significant acts that Turkey needs to realize as part of its negotiation process with the European Union (EU) for full-membership, he said.If the law is amended, the president can still use all his legal rights as with any ordinary citizen when he faces an act that goes beyond the limits of criticism, Tanrıkulu added.
Istanbul – BIA News Center
20 June 2012, Wednesday