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Turkey pledges to amend controversial insult law after EU criticism

[JURIST] Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said Tuesday that a new bill to reform a controversial law [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that criminalizes insults to Turkish identity will go before the Turkish parliament soon. He did not say how exactly the bill would alter the law. Critics contend Turkey has used the law to silence government critics, a practice which has presented a stumbling block [JURIST report] to the nation's proposed accession to the European Union (EU). Sahin's announcement comes after EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn [official website] Tuesday released a report [PDF text] on Turkish progress toward EU membership that criticized the law and said that it needed to be "brought in line with relevant EU standards." BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.

Many prominent Turkish journalists, authors, and academics have been investigated and tried for insulting "Turkishness" [JURIST report] under Article 301 of Turkey's penal code [text, in Turkish]. In 2006, Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC profile] was tried [JURIST report] for allegedly violating Article 301 by writing about the killings of an estimated million Ottoman Armenians [ANI backgrounder] in the early 20th century. Turkish novelists Elif Shafak [Armeniapedia profile] and Orhan Pamuk [JURIST news archive] have also been charged under the article for discussing the alleged Armenian genocide.

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