Insulting Turkishness

 Insulting Turkishness law used to repress



8th January
2008
  

Turkishness...

Turkey not sounding keen on allowing freedom of expression

Turkey gag protest Turkey's government will resume discussions Monday on a proposal to soften a much-criticized law that inhibits free speech, the justice minister said, in a bid to remove a major stumbling block to the country's hopes of joining the EU.

Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin would not give details on the proposed change to the law, but said it was likely to be voted on in parliament later this week.

Turkey's penal code makes denigrating "Turkishness" or insulting the country's institutions a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. The EU has said the law falls short of the bloc's standards on free speech and has warned it threatens to further slowdown accession talks with Turkey.

Under the proposed amendment, the Justice Ministry's permission would be required for prosecutors to launch investigations into possible violations of the article, according to Turkish news reports. The term "Turkishness" would be replaced with "Turkish nation," the reports said.

 

27th January
2008
  

Update: Letter to Turkey...

Re Article 301, an insult to free speech

IPI logo In an open letter, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, criticises the ongoing failure of the Turkish government to reform the internationally denounced article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan Prime Minister of Turkey
H.E. Abdullah Gl President of Turkey

Your Excellencies,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, would like to express its disappointment at the Turkish government’s failure to initiate reform of the criminal defamation articles laid down in the Turkish penal code, in particular article 301.

As you are aware, article 301 criminalises insults to "Turkishness" and carries a sentence of up to three years imprisonment. This article has been heavily criticised by the international community and its reform is a prerequisite to Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

According to information before IPI, comments made on 7 January by Mehmet Ali Sahin, the Turkish Minister for Justice, suggested that the long awaited reforms to article 301 were due to be brought to Parliament last week for debate. However, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denied this the following day, stating that the draft reforms were incomplete. Certain press reports suggested that the reform package would be introduced to the floor of the Turkish parliament this week. However, this has not yet happened.

IPI would like to urge the Turkish government to reform article 301, as the threats it represents to freedom of expression are in stark contrast to the rights laid out in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The willingness of the Turkish government to tackle this issue has special relevance at this moment in time. This week sees the first anniversary of the brutal murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed outside his offices in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. Dink, who was nominated IPI World Press Freedom Hero for 2007, had his conviction for breaching article 301 upheld in July 2006. Dink had received various threats from nationalists, and his murder was followed by widespread calls for changes to article 301, including an admission by President Gul in October 2007 of the necessity to reform this pernicious law. However, the article remains on the statute books.

IPI urges the Turkish government to place the package of reforms before parliament and to repeal article 301, and in doing so fulfil its obligations as a modern democracy. IPI also urges the Turkish government to repeal all other laws that impinge on freedom of speech, such as article 318, which criminalises "alienating the public from military service", and article 5816, which contains provisions for "insulting or cursing the memory of Ataturk".

Both of these laws were applied this week against Yasin Yetisgen, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Coban Atesi.

Yours sincerely,

David Dadge
Director

 

3rd February
2008
  

Update: Turkey Insult the Intelligence...

Turkey not as progressive as portrayed in official books

Gagged at protest A Turkish court has handed down a 15-month suspended jail term to an academic found guilty of insulting the state's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Professor Atilla Yayla, a well known liberal, said the trial highlighted the limits on free speech and academic debate in Turkey.

His crime was to suggest in academic discussion that the early Turkish republic was not as progressive as portrayed in official books.

His lawyers say they will lodge an immediate appeal.

Professor Yayla told the BBC he was prepared to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary: I want to emphasise again and again that Turkey's most pressing problem is freedom of expression.

The persecutor had asked the judge to impose a five-year prison sentence.

This trial has become a test of academic freedom in Turkey, which is pursuing a long-term ambition to become an EU member.

The professor was vilified by parts of the Turkish press, suspended from work at an Ankara university, and brought to trial.

The Turkish parliament is preparing to debate amending another law that restricts free speech. Article 301 on "insulting Turkishness" has been used to prosecute dozens of writers and intellectuals, including Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk.

Many foreign observers concentrate on Article 301, but there are other laws and articles in different laws, which have the potential to restrict freedom of expression, as it is in my case, Yayla told the BBC.

The EU has been pressing for a change to Article 301 for well over a year, but the government has faced stiff opposition from nationalists, both within the ruling party and in the opposition.

But changes to the law which protects Ataturk are not up for discussion.

 

11th February
2008
  

Update: Cartoon Rights...

Turkey puts cartoonists on trial

Musa Kart cat cariacture The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, strongly criticises the preliminary proceedings brought against Turkish cartoonists Musa Kart and Zafer Temocin, both of the Cumhuriyet newspaper. Both cartoonists are being investigated for caricatures considered insulting to the President.

The proceedings brought against Kart and Temocin are deeply disappointing. At a time when the international community is encouraging the Turkish government to ease its restrictions on freedom of expression, it appears that it may be moving in the opposite direction, said David Dadge, IPI Director: This latest matter occurs in a week in which over ten newspapers were fined, and the anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink came and went without any sign of the reforms to Article 301 mentioned in the weeks after his death. We strongly urge the Turkish to authorities to drop all the charges against Kart and Temocin.

Following the report by IPI, the Cartoonists' Rights Network (CRN) has reacted to the investigation of the two political cartoonists. CRN has confirmed that the two are being charged with violating criminal code article 299, which prohibits defaming the President of the Republic, currently Abdullah Gl. If found guilty, the cartoonists can be sentenced to up to four years in prison. In the recent past cartoonists were regularly charged with civil code offences relating to personal injury and most of those cases have been thrown out of court.

The cartoon that Kart drew depicted the president as a scarecrow in a corn field claiming powerlessness over the actions of his 16-year-old son.

 

2nd March
2008
  

Update: Ebullient Bulent...

Turkish star in trouble for sniping at the action against Kurds

Bulent Ersoy With the death toll in Turkey's operations against Kurdish nationalists in Iraq rising daily, one of the country's most famous pop stars was in serious trouble this week after she questioned deeply-engrained Turkish militarism on prime-time television.

I am not a mother, nor ever will be, but I would not bury my child for somebody else's war, said Bülent Ersoy, during a broadcast of Star TV's hugely popular Popstar Alaturka .

Visibly shocked, another presenter intervened to try to shut her up.

May God give me a son so that I can send him off to our glorious army, Ebru Gundes said, adding a nationalistic phrase repeated without fail at every military funeral: Martyrs never die, the fatherland cannot be divided.

But Ersoy, a transsexual, was not put off. Always the same cliched phrases, she riposted: Children go, bitter tears, funerals. And afterwards, these cliched phrases.

An Istanbul prosecutor promptly opened an investigation into her for alienating the people from military service, a crime punishable by up to three years in jail. The broadcasting watchdog announced that it was considering banning Ersoy from the screen.

These were predictable reactions in this profoundly nationalist country where criticising the conscript-heavy army is a risky business. From an early age, Turkish schoolchildren are taught that all Turks are born soldiers . School textbooks warn children that a man who has not done his military service cannot be useful to himself, his family, or his homeland.

Yet, while Ersoy's comments earned her Turkish media opprobrium, the packed audience in Star TV's studio applauded her warmly.

 

27th March
2008
  

Update: Insulting Jail Sentence...

Turkishness proves worthy of insult

Gagged in Turkey A court sentenced a prominent Turkish human rights campaigner to six months and 20 days in prison for insulting the army in a newspaper interview two years ago.

Legal action was taken against the campaigner, Eren Keskin, after a complaint by the Turkish general staff after she told the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that the army had undue influence on politics, the judiciary and state institutions.

Ms. Keskin was found guilty under a provision in the penal code that forbids “insulting Turkishness.” In the 15-minute hearing, Ms. Keskin said she stood by her statement but denied any intent to insult the army, adding, It was meant as political criticism. She said she would appeal the verdict.

 

13th April
2008
  

Offsite: Gagging for It...

Fighting for free speech in Turkey

Gagged in Turkey Hundreds of writers have been prosecuted in Turkey for "insulting Turkishness", but Sarah Rainsford discovers that there are still some people willing to publish controversial books.

It is a very difficult time to be a writer in Turkey.

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel prize for literature in 2006

Last year the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was murdered. This year, an ultra-nationalist gang allegedly had the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk on its hit list.

Both men had been prosecuted for "insulting Turkishness".

Today, many writers once known for their forthright views have fallen silent. But one man is still putting himself on the line in a fight for free speech.

I found Ragip Zarakolu in one of the dimly-lit corridors of the Sultanahmet courthouse waiting to be called for his latest trial.

...Read the full article

Latest Turkish Website Blocking

The Ankara assizes court on 20 March ordered suspension of the website of the daily paper Gndem , Ozgurgundem.org, which has been inaccessible since 1 April and on 11 February that of the Firat news agency , firatnews.eu, both for alleged propaganda in favour of the Kurdistan Workers Party.

 

19th April
2008
  

Update: Turkishness Still Nowhere Near Europeaness...

Turkey barely changes free speech gag law

Gagged in Turkey This month, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to soften the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to "denigrate Turkishness."

The law has been used to prosecute numerous intellectuals (more...) who dared to speak out about the 1915 Armenian killings during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, most notably Turkish Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and journalist Hrant Dink.

The bill to amend article 301 was approved by a parliamentary committee on Friday and is set to go to the floor on Tuesday.

AKP's original proposed amendment of Article 301 would have required prosecutors to seek approval from the Turkish president before filing any charges under the law. But sources in parliament say that, under pressure from the opposition, the draft has been changed so that the Ministry of Justice would be responsible for approval. The new law would also lower the maximum prison sentence from three to two years and thereby open the way for the suspension of prison terms. In Turkey, a prison sentence that does not exceed two years can be suspended by the court unless the offender commits the same crime again. With AKP controlling more than 60%of the seats in parliament, the measure is expected to pass by a comfortable margin.

But lawyer Cetin, who represents Dink's Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, doesn't believe the change will make a difference for intellectuals in Turkey. She said that even the revised version of Article 301 could still be applied arbitrarily.

It is obvious that this amendment will not change anything, because its substance hasn't been changed, she said. There are taboos, and when you break them the state reacts in a knee-jerk way. These taboos include the Cyprus conflict, the Kurdish and the Armenian issue. And this causes self-censorship, which is the most dangerous one.

But even as the Turkish government moves to modify Article 301, legal experts are criticizing the fact that a number of statutes are still on the books in Turkey that pose a potential threat to free speech.

 

1st May
2008
  

Update: Turkey Continues to Insult Free Speech...

Long awaited changes to insulting Turkishness are a damp squib

Gagged in TurkeyTurkey's parliament has voted to amend Article 301, a controversial law that limited free speech by permitting the prosecution of people for "insulting Turkishness."

Under the changes, which must still be approved by the country'
s president, insulting Turkishness would no longer be a crime, but insulting the Turkish nation could still land you in prison.

According to Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent for The Economist magazine, the distinction between insulting Turkishness and insulting the Turkish nation isn'
t any clearer in Turkish than it is in translation. That leaves many people wondering how to interpret the revision to Article 301.

The European Union demanded that Turkey drop restrictions on free speech as a precondition to eventually joining the bloc. The government-sponsored amendment to Article 301 appears to be an attempt to satisfy the EU, as well as Turkish nationalists. And in Zaman'
s assessment, it will probably do neither.

I think that this was a sort of balancing act, Zaman says, and I think in the process they fell off the tightrope, because neither the nationalists -- who they were trying to appease -- sound terribly happy, nor does the EU. In fact, we've heard many EU officials, at least in private, complain that this was just a cosmetic change and didn't go anywhere near addressing their concerns about free expression in Turkey.

The one concrete change from the amendment is that the maximum jail time for the offense will now be two years, rather than the previous three-year term.

 

25th May
2008
  

Offsite: Avoiding the G-word...

Euphemistic Europeaness and Repressive Turkishness

Gagged in TurkeyThis week the European parliament will seek to introduce a new euphemism for genocide into the lexicon of international relations. Diplomats who follow MEPs' advice will no longer have to run the risk of offending countries with a dishonourable history by uttering the 'genocide' word. They can, instead, refer to the most egregious crimes against humanity as "past events".

...

Last month, the Turkish assembly agreed to modify the law, reportedly to placate the EU's most powerful institutions. Out went the crime of insulting Turkishness. In came the crime of insulting the Turkish nation.

Several analysts have concluded - rightly - that this amendment is cosmetic and ambiguous. Yet according to the European commission, it is very much a welcome step forward . The socialist grouping in the European parliament, which includes Britain's Labour MEPs, has made a similar statement ahead of this week's debate.

...Read full article

 

3rd June
2008
  

Update: Detesting Military Service...

Turkish star on trial for a jibe against anti-PKK raids

Bulent Ersoy One of Turkey's most popular singers is facing up to three years in jail after being accused of trying to weaken public support for the powerful armed forces.

In a case highlighting the pivotal role of the army in Turkish life, prosecutors have indicted Blent Ersoy on charges of making the public detest military service after saying on nationwide television that if she had a son, she would not let him fight against Kurdish separatists.

Her comments, made last February, came after the army launched a controversial ground offensive in northern Iraq against the militant Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) - regarded by Turkey and many western countries as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey's leaders regard the PKK as an ethnic secessionist group which threatens the integrity of the Turkish state. But Ersoy questioned the rationale of the offensive, saying: Of course the homeland is indivisible, but why are we sending these youths to death? If I had a child, I would not send him to the grave for the war of other people.

The singer has been a controversial figure since undergoing a sex change operation in 1981. She had previously carved out a successful singing and acting career as a man.

Ersoy now faces trial under article 318 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to undermine the institution of military service.

 

16th June
2008
  

Update: Not Much to Like About Turkey...

Student under investigation for televised dislike of Ataturk

Turkey gagged Turkey's restrictions on free speech came under the spotlight when prosecutors launched an inquiry after a student said on a television programme that she did not like Mustafa Kemal Atatrk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.

Nuray Bezirgan also expressed admiration for the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. She now faces possible charges under law 5816, crimes committed against Atatrk , after her comments last week on the popular show Teke Tek . If convicted, she could be jailed for up to four-and-a-half years.

On the show, Bezirgan - who was wearing the Islamic headscarf regarded by Turkey's secular authorities as a symbol of political Islam - was asked if she liked Atatrk. She replied: Does the right not to like Atatrk exist? If so, I do not like him. If people are persecuting me in the name of the ideology of Atatrk, then you cannot expect me to like Atatrk.

The interviewer, Fatih Altayh had earlier disclosed that Kevser Cakir, a fellow student also appearing on the show, had a picture of Khomeini on her Facebook page. The pair were being interviewed about their criticisms of the secular system, which Atatrk is seen as embodying.

Law 5816 is distinct from Article 301, which makes it an offence to insult Turkishness and under which several prominent intellectuals have been prosecuted. Turkey has been pressurised to liberalise its laws on free speech in its quest for EU membership.

 

18th June
2008
  

Update: Turkey Insults Humanity...

5 months in jail for publishing book about Armenian Massacre

Turkey gagged A Turkish publisher has been sentenced to five months in prison for publishing a book by a British author about the mass killing of Armenians in 1915.

Ragip Zarakolu was found guilty of insulting the institutions of the Turkish republic under Article 301 of Turkey's penal code.

The controversial law was recently reformed under pressure from the EU to ensure freedom of speech in Turkey. This is the first high-profile verdict to be handed down since then.

Zarakolu's sentence confirms campaigners' fears that changes to the law were merely cosmetic, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul.

In April it became a crime to insult the Turkish nation, rather than Turkishness. But insulting the Turkish nation can still be punished by up to two years in jail.

Zarakolu was brought to trial for publishing a book by British author George Jerjian on the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Passing sentence, the judge told Zarakolu he had insulted the Turkish republic and its founders. His own defence - that he had the right to criticise - was rejected.

Zarakolu's case was not referred to the Turkish ministry of justice, as required under the reforms, and he has said he will appeal against the verdict, our correspondent reports. His sentence will not be imposed until that appeal process is complete.

The justice ministry recently revealed that 1,700 people were tried under Article 301 in 2006 alone.

 

20th June
2008
  

Update: Turkey Proves Worthy of Criticism...

Turkish star sees trial postponed until September

Bulent Ersoy One of Turkey's best known singers, Bulent Ersoy, has gone on trial charged with attempting to turn the public against military service.

The charges were brought after she suggested it was not worth sacrificing soldiers' lives in Turkey's conflict with the Kurdish separatist PKK group.

The transsexual singer made her comments on television last February.

The army was conducting a major operation against the PKK in northern Iraq at the time.

Ms Ersoy did not show up in court, saying she had to attend a concert, so the trial has been postponed until September, when she will be obliged to attend.

Ms Ersoy has already said she will stand by her comments. But she faces up to four-and-a-half years in prison if she is convicted.

Ms Ersoy's trial may well scare many into silence, our correspondent says.

 

25th September
2008
  

Update: Criticising Military Service...

Turkish star unrepentant in court

Bulent Ersoy A popular Turkish singer has defended public statements that Turkey's long conflict with Kurdish rebels needs a solution - not more deaths.

Bulent Ersoy made her comments at a court hearing in Istanbul, after being charged with attempting to turn the public against military service.

The transsexual singer also suggested that if she had a son she would not send him to fight.

If found guilty, she faces up to four-and-a-half years in prison.

Ms Ersoy made her comments about Turkey's powerful military on television last February. The Turkish army was conducting a major operation against the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq at the time.

The prosecutor accuses Bulent Ersoy of making dangerous propaganda for the PKK, describing military service as the sacred duty of every Turk.

But Ms Ersoy told the judge she had committed no crime. The singer said she stood by her words and her right to express her thoughts freely - as a loyal citizen of her country.

It was a defiant stance, but this case has exposed the limits on free speech in Turkey once again - a country whose military remains extremely powerful, its reputation and actions protected from criticism by law, our correspondent says.

Questioning the Turkish military can be a risky business, our correspondent says. Article 318 of the penal code - dissuading people from military service - is frequently used by the military against its critics. Critics say a separate article, making it a crime to insult the Turkish nation and its institutions, is also used to stifle free speech.

 

26th September
2008
  

Update: In the Dog House...

Artist cleared insulting the Turkish PM

picture of dog with PM's head A British artist walked free after being cleared of insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, by portraying him as a dog in a case seen as a test of Turkey's tolerance of free speech.

A Turkish court acquitted Michael Dickinson of criminal charges despite citing some insulting elements in his depiction of Erdogan as a dog attached to a leash in the colours of the US flag. But the court ruled that the artwork was within the limits of criticism.

Dickinson who has lived in Turkey for 20 years, was charged with insulting the prime minister's dignity in September and could have faced up to two years in jail if convicted. He was arrested after unfurling the picture at a court hearing of an art exhibition organiser, who had been charged with insulting behaviour for displaying another of Dickinson's works. The earlier picture depicted Erdogan as a dog being presented with a rosette by George Bush.

Dickinson, a member of the Stuckist art movement, voiced relief at his acquittal but warned that other artists still faced legal pressure for expressing dissenting views. I am lucky to be acquitted. There are still artists in Turkey facing prosecution and being sentenced for their opinions, he told AP.

 

18th October
2008
  

Update: Censorial Turkishness...

Author accused of insulting Turkishness has a go at his president

Other Colours book by Orhan Pamuk Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize laureate, forcefully denounced the Turkish government for its treatment of writers, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Frankfurt Book Fair as the president of Turkey sat listening.

Every year, a nation is chosen to be guest of honor at the fair and this year it is Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of publishers, editors, agents and authors are gathered here from 100 countries.

Pamuk spoke quietly but intensely: A century of banning and burning books, of throwing writers into prison or killing them or branding them as traitors and sending them into exile, and continuously denigrating them in the press — none of this has enriched Turkish literature. It has only made it poorer.

Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, was the subject of criminal charges of insulting Turkishness after giving a 2005 interview to a magazine in which he condemned the genocide against Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I and the killing of Kurds by Turkey in the 1980s. The charges were dropped, but many nationalists have not forgiven Pamuk.

The state's habit of penalizing writers and their books is still very much alive, Pamuk said in his speech. Article 301 of the Turkish penal code continues to be used to silence and suppress many other writers, in the same way it was used against me; there are at this moment hundreds of writers and journalists being prosecuted and found guilty under this article.

When he was working on his latest novel, Museum of Innocence,   Pamuk said, he used YouTube to research Turkish films and songs. Now, he said, YouTube and many other domestic and international Web sites are blocked in Turkey for political reasons.

President Gul, who spoke immediately after Pamuk, said Turkey was really proud of Pamuk's Nobel Prize. He did not address Pamuk's criticisms directly, but said that today I can state with happiness that in Turkey, thanks to political and economic reforms that have gradually and more intensively been integrated, his nation was moving closer to fulfilling the conditions necessary to join the European Union.

 

20th December
2008
  

Update: I Apologise...

Petition apologising for Armenian genocide winds up Turkey

Turkish gagTurkey's prime minister has criticised a Turkish internet petition which apologises for the great catastrophe of 1915 when Armenians were massacred.

The petition was launched by more than 200 Turkish academics and newspaper columnists .

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: I find it unreasonable to apologise when there is no reason.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915. Turkey denies that it was genocide . Erdogan said the petition risked stirring trouble. He called it irrational and wrong .

The petition was also condemned by some 60 Turkish former ambassadors, who called it an act of betrayal.

Many international historians say the massacres and deaths of Armenians during their forced removal from what is now eastern Turkey were genocide.

The intellectuals behind the petition say they want to challenge the official denial and provoke discussion in Turkish society about what happened.

The petition is entitled I apologise . A short statement at the top reads: My conscience cannot accept the ignorance and denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and - on my own behalf - I share the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers - and I apologise to them.

 

24th December
2008
  

Update: In Line with Free Expression...

Turkish star cleared of criticism of military service

Bulent ErsoyBulent Esroy, a popular transsexual singer in Turkey, was acquitted of charges of turning the people against military service.

Esroy had spoken out against the military campaign against the Kurdish militia groups in Turkey, but the court ruled that the comments were in line with the free expression of individual views.

 

30th January
2009
  

Diary: The Power of the Imagination...

Amsterdam art exhibition of Turkish cartoons

Turkey satirical art30 January until 8 March
Press Museum, Amsterdam

In Turkey, prosecution for insulting the nation is almost an occupational hazard for journalists and cartoonists. A number of provocative Turkish cartoons are on display at an exhibition in the Netherlands. Afterwards the organisers hope an internet auction will raise money to cover the legal costs for these controversial court cases.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a poor sense of humour. In recent years, he has taken many a cartoonist to court. But the deluge of court cases has not stopped the illustrators from mocking the lack of press freedom in the country. In one cartoon, Sefer Selvi draws the prime minister, dressed in hunting gear, shooting at one of the newspapers he has taken to court. His dog tears up another copy.

There's a cartoon by Sefer Selvi in which Prime Minister Erdogan paints a circle around a dumbfounded journalist, saying: If you want to write news, then you have to keep inside the line.

Since 2004 Turkey has had media legislation guaranteeing freedom of the press, as part of the deal for Turkey's accession to the European Union. But press freedom has only improved on paper.

 

24th March
2009
  

Update: Turks Cursed by Repressive Law...

Ministry of Injustice continues insulting Turkishness case

Turkish gagTurkey's decision to try two Christians under a revised version of a controversial law for insulting Turkishness because they spoke about their faith came as a blow to the country's record of freedom of speech and religion.

A court on Feb. 24 received the go-ahead from the Ministry of Justice to try Christians Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan under the revised Article 301 – a law that has sparked outrage among proponents of free speech as journalists, writers, activists and lawyers have been tried under it. The court had sent the case to the Ministry of Justice after the government on May 8, 2008 put into effect a series of cosmetic changes to the law.

The justice ministry decision came as a surprise to Topal and Tastan and their lawyer, as missionary activities are not illegal in Turkey. Defense lawyer Haydar Polat said no concrete evidence of insulting Turkey or Islam has emerged since the case first opened two years ago.

A Ministry of Justice statement claimed that approval to try the case came in response to the original statement by three young men – Fatih Kose, Alper Eksi and Oguz Yilmaz – that Topal and Tastan were conducting missionary activities in an effort to show that Islam was a primitive and fictitious religion that results in terrorism, and to portray Turks as a cursed people.

Prosecutors have yet to produce any evidence indicating the defendants described Islam in these terms, and Polat said Turkey's constitution grants all citizens freedom to choose, be educated in and communicate their religion, making missionary activities legal.

Update: Vindictive Farce Continues

20th October 2009. See article from christianpost.com

After three prosecution witnesses testified yesterday that they didn't even know two Christians on trial for insulting Turkishness and Islam, a defense lawyer called the trial a scandal.

Speaking after the hearing in the drawn-out trial, defense attorney Haydar Polat said the case's initial acceptance by a state prosecutor in northwestern Turkey was based only on a written accusation from the local gendarmerie headquarters unaccompanied by any documentation.

Yesterday's three witnesses, all employed as office personnel for various court departments in Istanbul, testified that they had never met or heard of the two Christians on trial. The two court employees who had requested New Testaments testified that they had initiated the request themselves.

For the next hearing set for Jan. 28, 2010, the court has repeated its summons to three more prosecution witnesses who failed to appear yesterday: a woman employed in Istanbul's security police headquarters and two armed forces personnel whose whereabouts had not yet been confirmed by the population bureau.

Update: Vindictive Farce Continues and Continues

7th June 2010. See  article from  inspiremagazine.org.uk

The eleventh hearing of a case of alleged slander against two Turkish Christians closed just minutes after it opened this week, due to lack of any progress.

Prosecutors produced no new evidence or witnesses against Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal since the last court session four months ago. Despite lack of any tangible reason to continue the stalled case, their lawyer said, the Silivri Criminal Court set still another hearing to be held on 14 October.

They are uselessly dragging this out, defence lawyer Haydar Polat said moments after Judge Hayrettin Sevim closed the 25 May hearing. The two Protestant Christians were accused in October 2006 of slandering the Turkish nation and Islam under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code.

The prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence of the charges, which allegedly took place while the two men were involved in evangelistic activities in the town of Silivri.

At this point, we are tired of this, Tastan admitted. If they can't find these so-called witnesses, then the court needs to issue a verdict. After four years, it has become a joke!

 

30th June
2009
  

Stuck on Repression...

British artist flees Turkey after Erdogan insult case re-opened

Good Boy by Michael Dickenson A British Stuckist artist, Michael Dickinson, has fled Turkey after learning that his acquittal last September, over insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage, has been overturned.

The case gained international media coverage and the acquittal was seen as a step forward in Turkey's human rights record with positive implications for its pending EU application.

The collage Good Boy showed Erdogan as a dog on a stars and stripes leash.

A week ago, a late night news broadcast in Turkey said that the acquittal had been quashed and a new case against Dickinson was pending. He said: I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my books, furnishings and computer. I was sad to leave after 23 years in Turkey, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration.

Dickinson is expecting the trial to go ahead in absentia with his being represented by his lawyer.

He is now staying with friends in Durham, UK, where he was born. He said: I came back thinking I would be safe, but I've since learnt that Britain has an extradition treaty with Turkey and that if there was a request, Britain could send me back to Turkey if they so wished. I initially thought this was out of the question, but a number of highly unlikely and controversial extraditions have occurred, so I can't say I even feel secure now in the land of my birth and the land supposedly of free speech.

Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement of which Dickinson is a member, has campaigned on his behalf, and said, It seems when the media spotlight is on, Turkey becomes remarkably tolerant, and when the international press go away, so do human rights.

Dickinson's problems began in June 2006, in an anti-Iraq War show in Istanbul run by Erkan Kaya of the Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK). Dickinson added to his existing display of work, without Kaya's knowledge, a collage Best in Show , showing Erdogan as a dog being presented with a rosette by President Bush. It was seized by police. As Kaya was facing prosecution for insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister , an offence with a potential jail sentence, Dickinson wrote a letter to the court, saying that it was his responsibility, not Kaya's.

Thomson, wrote to then-Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, asking for intervention. The judge who received Dickinson's letter ruled that Dickinson would not be prosecuted, because of the unwelcome press attention involving the appeal to Blair. Kaya would be prosecuted, however.

In September 2006, Dickinson on his own initiative went to the court for Kaya's case (which was postponed) to protest Kaya's innocence. To draw attention, Dickinson held up outside the court a new collage Good Boy. He was arrested and detained for 10 days in conditions he described as horrific . David Blunkett, then in Istanbul, intervened on his behalf. Dickinson was released, but told he would be prosecuted for the new collage.

In September 2008, Dickinson was acquitted of any offence under article 123/5 insulting the dignity of the prime minister. The judge said he thought that the collage was insulting according to Turkish standards, but not according to standards in the European community, and, as Turkey was trying to join the European community, a collage such as Dickinson's should not be held as a crime, so he felt he had no alternative but to acquit.

Dickinson lost his job teaching English at Istanbul University and found he was blacklisted by other educational establishments. He survived by telling fortunes with runes on the street.

In June 2009, Dickinson found out that the public prosecutor had applied to the court, which had quashed the acquittal on 21 June, and ruled that he case would be heard again. Dickinson immediately left Turkey for the UK.

 

1st February
2010
  

Update: Turkishness Insults Europe...

Council of Europe unimpressed by Turkeys repressive censorship law

Council of Europe flagAndrew McIntosh, the author of a report on media freedom for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has warned that Turkey is in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and as such the European Court of Human Rights may impose sanctions on Turkey for its notorious Article 301, which restricts freedom of expression for members of the media.

British MP Andrew McIntosh told Today's Zaman: The report is unequivocal about Article 301. It says Article 301 violates Article 10 of the European convention. If a case was started, that opinion, which is the view of PACE, can be tested in the court of law.

The report said the Assembly welcomes amendments made to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code [TCK] but deplores the fact that Turkey has not abolished Article 301. Criminal charges have been brought against many journalists under the slightly revised Article 301, which still violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkish deputies, addressing the floor, objected to McIntosh's proposition and claimed that the European court has not made a ruling and that the report erroneously states that the amended article still violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Ertuğrul Kumcuoğlu from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) even tabled an amendment to delete the proposition from the report.

PACE argued that the changes in Article 301 have not substantially reduced the number of court cases in which writers or journalists have been prosecuted for their published opinions.

PACE further recommended that the Committee of Ministers call on the government of Turkey to revise their defamation and insult laws and their practical application in accordance with assembly resolutions. In January 2009 the IPI criticized attempts to prosecute Turkish cartoonists for lampooning senior government figures.

 

5th February
2010
  

Update: Turkishness Insults Europe...

OSCE unimpressed by Turkeys repressive censorship law

OSCE logoA senior official at the world's largest intergovernmental organization focusing on media freedoms has lambasted Turkey for imposing restrictions on Internet sites and criticized media accreditation methods to ban reporters from attending press conferences.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) media representative Miklos Haraszti told Today's Zaman in Strasbourg last week that Turkey needs to reform or abolish Law 5651, commonly known as the Internet Law, which restricts access to popular Web sites including video-sharing Web site YouTube. He also warned that changes made to notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which makes it a crime to attack the Turkish nation in the media, are inadequate and that the government simply needs to get rid of that law.

It puts Turkey in bad company with countries like Iran and China, though Turkey is basically a free country, Haraszti said, stressing that Turkey should either reform or abolish the Internet Law in its current form. He warned that the practice is simply not in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards on freedom of expression. The government does have tools to go after illegitimate sites and punish those who violate laws. But do not block whole access to Web sites. It is not solving problems, he remarked.

 

11th March
2010
  

Update: Dogged by Censorship...

British artist given suspended fine over depiction of Turkish PM as a dog

Collage with Turkey PM as dog A British artist has accused Turkey of censorship after an Istanbul court fined him almost $4,500  for caricaturing the country's prime minister.

Artist Michael Dickinson displayed in 2006 an illustration that superimposed the head of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan onto the body of a dog.

The court suspended the fine, on the condition that Dickinson does not produce similar art for the next five years.

It's censorship. It's a threat. It's punishing people who are expressing their opinion, Dickinson told dpa, the day after the verdict was handed down. There is a lack of freedom in a country where journalists can be arrested or cartoonists fined for expressing their opinion, said the artist, who has been living in Turkey for the last 23 years.

Dickinson's illustration was first shown as part of an Istanbul anti-war exhibition. The artist was later arrested and charged with insulting the Turkish prime minister. A local court initially acquitted Dickinson in 2008, but a state prosecutor asked that the case be reopened.

 

16th March
2010
  

Update: Turkishness Is...Insulting Free Speech...

Website editor on charges for comments made by forum poster

gercek gundem logo Baris Yarkadas, the editor of the online newspaper Gercek Gündem (Real Agenda), is facing up to five years in prison at a trial that started on 3 March 2010.

Proceedings were initiated in response to a complaint brought by the president's office. He is charged with insulting President Abdullah Gül under article 299-2 of the criminal code for failing to remove a comment posted by a reader.

We call for the immediate withdrawal of this baseless charge, Reporters Without Borders said. It is incomprehensible that Yarkadas should be accused of insulting the president when he did not himself write the comment, which was anyway neither rude nor insulting. This prosecution is indicative of a desire by the government to intimidate and silence its critics.

The reader accused President Gül of allowing his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, to defy him. Bravo, you have trampled on the honour of the great republic of Turkey, he wrote.

Yarkadas is facing other prosecutions. He is charged with offending Nur Birgen, head of the Institute for Forensic Medicine's expertise section, by reporting allegations that human rights NGOs have made against her.

 

26th March
2010
  

Update: Easily Offended PM...

Theatre director on charges of insulting the Turkish prime minister

laz marks Director and actor Haldun Açiksözlu stands trial under charges of insulting the prime minister in the theatre play Laz Marks .

The show has been playing for one year in cooperation with the Leman Culture and Cans,enlik Actors.

The play has been shown in about 80 different provinces and districts. The complaint was filed after the performance in Rize as part of the Laz region on the eastern Black Sea coast. The Rize Magistrate Criminal Court demands a two years eight months prison sentence for Açiksözlu by reason of insulting the Prime Minister .

 

8th November
2010
  

Update: Failed, Must do Better...

EU annual report criticises Turkey over lack of media freedom

EU flag The European Union on Tuesday will criticize Turkey sharply over the rising number of prosecutions against journalists in an annual progress report on the country's bid to join the bloc, said a person familiar with the draft.

The attack on Turkey's press-freedom record is likely to further embarrass the country's Islamic-leaning government, which this week takes over the six-month rotating chair of the Council of Europe, the Continent's top human-rights body. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has hailed that development as testament to the level of democracy in Turkey.

But according to Turkish and international press watchdogs, media freedoms—a key right underpinning democratic systems—are getting significantly worse in Turkey. Reporters without Borders this year ranked Turkey 138th in terms of media freedom, out of 178 countries—down from 98th out of 167 in 2005.

The Justice Ministry, in written answers to questions, said, Turkey is a democratic state, governed by the rule of law, in which press freedoms are guaranteed by the constitution. But the ministry acknowledged that the rise in cases was a problem. At this moment, our ministry is preparing a draft that foresees the amending of some articles concerning the press in the Turkish Penal Code, the Justice Ministry wrote, singling out the articles on secrecy of investigations, personal privacy and the attempt to affect a fair trial.

The ministry also noted that in 2008 it amended the penal code's Article 301, which penalized anyone who publicly denigrated Turkishness, the military, courts or government. Ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted under Article 301 in 2006, and was assassinated soon afterward. Since 2008, prosecutors need permission from the Justice Ministry to open a case under Article 301, and new prosecutions have come to a near halt as a result.

 

31st July
2011
  

Update: First of Several...

Hrant Dink killer sentenced to 23 years in jail

Hrant Dink A Turkish court has sentenced the trigger-man in the 2007 murder of International Press Institute (IPI) World Press Freedom Hero Hrant Dink to almost 23 years in prison.

A juvenile court in Istanbul imposed nearly the maximum sentence on ultranationalist Ogun Samast, who was 17 at the time of Dink's killing, after convicting him of premeditated murder and carrying an unlicensed gun Samast gunned down Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, in broad daylight outside of Dink's office in Istanbul.

Dink had received numerous death threats from Turkish nationalists who viewed his journalism as treacherous. He had also faced legal problems for denigrating Turkishness under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in his articles about the massacre of Armenians during the First World War.

IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: We welcome the conviction and sentence of Mr. Dink's murderer, and we hope it brings a measure of closure to his family. Nevertheless, we call on Turkish authorities to hold all those involved in this heinous crime accountable, from those who facilitated it to the masterminds who ordered it.

A hearing is currently scheduled this Friday in the trial of 18 other defendants charged with involvement in the murder. Their cases were separated from the case against Samast due to his age at the time of the slaying.

Update: Instigator jailed

21st January 2012. See  article from  bbc.co.uk

A court in Turkey has sentenced a man to life in prison for instigating the 2007 killing of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

The judge sentenced Yasin Hayal to life but acquitted 19 others of a charge of being part of a terrorist group. His teenage killer, Ogun Samast, was jailed for 22 years last year.

After the verdict, a crowd of about 500 people including members of Dink's family marched to the spot where he was shot dead to protest at what they said was state collusion.

Dink's supporters say they have uncovered evidence that suggests involvement by state officials and police in his murder. But, they say, repeated requests to have those officials investigated have been ignored, and in some cases important evidence has been destroyed.

 

16th November
2011
  

Update: When is a Dictator Not a Dictator?...

By dictate of the Turkish establishment

Photographic Mustafa President Mary Evans Nagehan Alci is a young Turkish journalist who writes a column for the mainstream daily Aksam and appears regularly prominent on news channels, including CNN Turk. She is, by all definitions, a secular liberal. Yet Mrs. Alci said something on TV last week that enraged millions of secular Turks. During a discussion on Turkish political history, she referred to Ataturk, Turkey's founder  father, as a ' dictator'.

Then it took less than a day for a campaign to culminate against her in the media. The National Party, a die-hard defender of the Ataturk cult, called on the whole Turkish nation to protest this insult. Kemalist columnists in various papers wrote angry pieces that bashed Alci and passionately argued why Ataturk, the Supreme Leader, was never a dictator.

Moreover, a Turkish prosecutor initiated an investigation into Alci's comment for possible violation of the Law to Protect Ataturk. It is very probable, in other words, that Alci might be tried for insulting Ataturk, which is a serious crime in Turkey that can put you in jail for six years.

The funny thing, of course, is that the term dictator is not an insult but a political definition, and Ataturk really fits into that quite nicely. From 1925, when he initiated the single party regime, to his death in 1938, he ruled Turkey with the perfect dictatorial style: he banned all opposition parties, closed down even civil society organizations (from Sufi orders to freemasons), and did not allow a single critical voice in the media. You just need Politics 101 to call this regime a dictatorship.

Of course, Ataturk cannot be considered in the same camp with the more notorious dictators of his age, such as Hitler or Stalin, who were ruthless mass-murderers. When compared to such figures, Ataturk was a very mild autocrat. Hence historian Ahmet Kuyas,, who has genuine sympathy for Ataturk and his heritage, argues that he must be called a good dictator. Yet a dictator, nonetheless.

 

 Update: Literally a Shameful Censor...

Turkish PM astonishingly claims that censorship is unacceptable


Link Here 24th July 2012  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

recep tayyip erdoganCensorship is unacceptable and obstructive, not only in literature, but also in the arts, media, politics and other fields, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spouted in an interview with The Istanbul Review magazine. He claimed:

Freedom of expression is a field we are very keen on, one the standards of which we raise with each passing day. We have defended and we will keep on defending the expression of opinions with utmost freedom [...BUT...] given that they do not interfere with others' area of freedom, not violating individual rights and freedoms by insulting.

Not only in our youth, also in our recent history [err... yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last decade and last century], we have experienced these pressures intimately. I am a politician who has been convicted because I cited a poem which is even in textbooks. I am a prime minister who knows very well what freedom of expression and freedom of opinion mean.

 

  Hardly appreciating the tolerance to lampoonery expected of an EU leader...

Erdogan gets nasty with a social media user who spotted a resemblance to Gollum


Link Here 3rd December 2015  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress
Erdogan and GollumTurkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been showing anything but an appreciation of the qualities of tolerance required of an EU state, but then again, he has Mrs Merkel where he wants her in a rather painful figure four leg lock.

Anyway Erdogan is threatening to jail one of his citizens for a bit of jocular lampooning on social media. The poor unfortunate victim merely posted a couple of images likening Erdogan to Gollum from the Lord of the Rings.

Turkish doctor Bilgin Çiftçi could face a two-year jail sentence if he is found guilty of insulting the state official on social media -- a court has been tasked with deeming whether or not the comparison to Gollum is indeed an insult.

 

 Update: Model persecution...

Turkish celebrity given suspended prison sentence for sharing a post insulting King Erdogan


Link Here 2nd June 2016  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress
merve buyuksaracAn Turkish court has found the well known model, Merve Buyuksarac, guilty of insulting a public official, after she shared a poem on her Instagram account in 2014 that was deemed insulting to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country's president. She was given a 14 month suspended prison sentence.

Ms Buyuksarac was one of thousands of people to share the poem, which did not mention Mr Erdogan - who was then prime minister - by name, but alluded to a corruption scandal that allegedly involved his family.

Her lawyer, Emre Telci, said he would file a formal objection to the verdict and appeal her case at the European Court of Justice. Telci said:

These insult trials are being initiated in series, they are being filed automatically. Merve was prosecuted for sharing a posting that did not belong to her.

The case against Ms Buyuksarac is one of almost 2,000 defamation suits that have been brought against critics of Erdogan since he became president in 2014. The trials have targeted journalists, academics and even schoolchildren. Free speech advocates say the law is being used aggressively to silence and intimidate critics.

 

 Update: An uneuropean law...

Man falls victim to Turkey's lese majeste laws for likening Erdogan to Gollum


Link Here 25th June 2016  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress
erdogan as gollumA Turkish man has been found guilty of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for likening him to the Gollum character from the Lord of the Rings .

A court gave Rifat Cetin a suspended one-year jail sentence and stripped him of parental custody rights.

He has insisted his images, comparing Erdogan with the grotesque-looking Gollum in 2014, were harmless. In 2014, Cetin published on Facebook three photos of Erdogan, then a prime minister, beside three pictures of Gollum with similar facial expressions.

Article 299 of the Turkish penal code states that anybody who insults Turkey's president can face a prison term of up to four years.

However, Cetin said he would appeal because Erdogan was not president at the time the pictures were published, Turkish media report.

 

 Update: Insults and censorship...

Perhaps Erdogan now sees that his nasty attempts to bully those who insult him has achieved nothing beyond alienating the people of Europe


Link Here 3rd August 2016  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress
recep tayyip erdoganTurkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is dropping all lawsuits against those charged with insulting him. Speaking at an event in Ankara Erdogan said he was withdrawing all the lawsuits for insults against his person:

For one time only, I will be forgiving and withdrawing all cases against the many disrespects and insults that have been levelled against me.

I feel that if we do not make use of this opportunity correctly, then it will give the people the right to hold us by the throat. So I feel that all factions of society, politicians first and foremost, will behave accordingly with this new reality, this new sensitive situation before us.

Hundreds of people have been charged with insulting the president, including on social media.

Erdogan also lashed out at the west for failing to show solidarity with Ankara over a failed coup and said countries who worried more about the fate of the perpetrators than Turkey's democracy could not be friends. He commented on a European lack of support against the recent coup:

Not a single person has come to give condolences either from the European Union ... or from the west.

titanic on erdoganSausages

See  article from rt.com

Erdogan's reconciliatory gesture did not receive instant goodwill for the dictatorial president. A German satirical magazine mocked Turkish President's post-coup crackdowns by publishing a cover showing a sausage photoshopped over his groin area. The front page reads:

Erdogan's stressed: Even his penis is staging a putsch.

On its Facebook page, the magazine has advised fans to buy the August issue before the Chancellor Tayyip Merkel bans Titanic.

Cologne Rally

See  article from theguardian.com

Political censorship has also reared its head in the west due to the shear number of Turks living in Europe. Turkey has condemned a German court decision banning president Recep Tayyip Erdogan from addressing his supporters by video link at a rally of tens of thousands of Cologne.

Tensions have been running high among Germany's three million-strong Turkish population in the wake of last month's failed coup and authorities deployed 2,700 police officers on the streets of the Rhineland city on Sunday to keep the peace. Amid fears that the crowds could be riled by live screenings of speeches from Turkey by politicians including Erdogan, Germany's constitutional court banned an application for such broadcasts.

A statement from the Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the ban was unacceptable .

Tense in the Netherlands

See article from indexoncensorship.org

More than ever before, Turks all over the world have seen their diaspora communities divided between supporters and critics of Erdogan.

At around half a million people, the Netherlands has one of the largest Turkish communities in Europe. In the days after the coup, thousands of Dutch Turks took to the streets in several cities to show their support for the Turkish president. Turks critical of the Erdogan government had told media that they're afraid to express their opinions due to rising tensions.

People suspected of being supporters of the opposition Gulen movement, led by Erdogan's US-based opponent and preacher Fethullah Gulen, which has been accused of being behind the coup attempt, have been threatened and physically assaulted in the streets. The mayor of Rotterdam, a city with a large Turkish community, urged Dutch-Turks to remain calm and ordered increased police protection of Gulen-aligned Turkish institutions.

Offsite Article: President Erdogan's attempts to silence Turkish satirists not working

6th August 2016. See  article from usatoday.com

"The legal assault on cartoonists in Turkey has really been unprecedented over the past few years under Erdogan. One cartoonist, Musa Kart , was sued by Erdogan for a 2004 drawing that portrayed the Turkish president as a kitten and for another cartoon that portrayed him as a bank robber. "[Kart] told me that's there's no serious journalist or cartoonist who doesn't who doesn't have a case against him or her in the country.

...Read the full article from usatoday.com

 


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