[JURIST] The Council of Europe [official website] on Tuesday urged Turkey to move more quickly in its efforts to reform legislation. Council Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland [official profile], speaking at a conference in Ankara, emphasized the importance of reform in the laws governing freedom of expression and anti-terrorism, and the pressing need for action [transcript]:
Freedom of expression and media freedom—as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights—is a core element of any functioning democracy. … Legislation has to be brought in line with Council of Europe standards. Some progress has already been achieved. … Freedom of expression can disturb the State or any sector of the population, especially when the country is facing threats of terrorism and instability at its borders. But even in these circumstances, freedom of expression is vital. It does not make countries weaker. On the contrary, it strengthens democracy and the rule of law. In fact, any successful struggle against terrorism must be based on democratic principles and rule of law.
Jagland also called for complete reform of Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws and challenged lawmakers to recognize the Internet’s role in exercising freedom of expression. Finally, Jagland expressed continuing support of legislative reform on behalf of the Council.
Turkey continues to face controversy regarding media freedom and anti-terrorism. The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website] criticized Turkey in November for prosecuting activists [JURIST report] under the country’s vague counterterrorism law. In March 2011 a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged Turkish officials to respect journalists’ freedom of expression [JURIST report]. In November 2010 a Turkish Magistrate Court in Ankara reinstated [JURIST report] the nearly three-year ban on YouTube [media website; JURIST news archive] only days after the ban had been lifted. The court ordered access to YouTube blocked after video of former opposition leader Deniz Baykal in a bedroom with a female aide surfaced on the site. In September 2010 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Turkey failed to protect the life of well-known Turkish-Armenian writer and journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] and failed to adequately investigate his murder and infringed on his right of freedom of expression. Dink, editor of the newspaper Agos [media website], was shot and killed [JURIST report] in Istanbul in January 2007. Prior to his death, Dink was tried and then put on retrial [JURIST report] for “insulting Turkishness” by writing about the killing of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire.