The Not So Big News Out of Turkey

I was planning on posting a wonderful blog about me and Rev. Billy Graham actually agreeing on something, but that will have to wait because BIG NEWS is coming out of Turkey.  At least it seemed like big news when I got the under one minute sum up on BBC World News yesterday morning.  Then I made the mistake of looking into it a little more and I have to say…I’m unimpressed.
 
The big news is that Turkey’s parliament has approved a proposal to amend Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.  This was been lauded as a huge step to free speech reform, and that’s what Turkey wants us all to think.  Unfortunately for them, some of us will actually take the time to read about it on websites such as Aljazeera.Net.  Curse us pesky news readers.  Let’s break it down, shall we?
 
Article 301, according to the folks at Wikipedia.Org, covers:
 
A person who publicly denigrates Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years.
 
A person who publicly denigrates the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military or security organizations shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years.
 
In cases where denigration of Turkishness is committed by a Turkish citizen in another country the punishment shall be increased by one third.
 
Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime.
 
(For those of you like me that were going, what the heck does denigrates mean, it’s like defaming, bashing, bad mouthing, etc.)
 
Now it’s nice that “Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime”, but who decides the difference between criticism and bashing?  Obviously many scholars and journalists have been hauled into court thanks to Article 301.  Many people have been critical of Article 301, including the folks at the European Union.
 
Yes, Turkey would love to reap the benefits of EU membership and has been doing the dance to become a full member since 2005.  One of the things that would prove a commitment to political reform would be easing restrictions on free speech.  So, the heavens opened up and an amendment was born.  This is sure to have a huge impact on things, right?  I mean, the EU isn’t going to be impressed by some half-assed gesture, are they?  Apparently Turkey thinks they will because the amendment changes very little.
 
After everything is said and done it will be a crime to insult the Turkish nation, rather than Turkishness (again, what’s an insult and what’s criticism, and for that matter, what is Turkishness verses the Turkish nation) and the maximum sentence will drop from three years to two.  And let’s not forget that the amendment has to be approved by the president before it can go into effect.
 
Suddenly the landmark amendment for free speech reform in Turkey seems pretty much like business as usual.