The law, Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, had criminalized the act of “insulting Turkishness.” It will now be amended to instead criminalize “insulting the Turkish nation.” The justice minister will be required to approve any Article 301 prosecutions, under the amended law, and the maximum jail term for offenders will be reduced to two years from three.
Critics of Article 301, including human-rights groups and European Union officials, who hold the key to Turkey’s hopes of joining the 27-nation bloc, say the law has been used to limit freedom of speech. Some of those same critics dismissed today’s changes as merely cosmetic.
One lawmaker told the Associated Press that “it was ‘illusive’ to believe that the amendment would advance free speech.”
In a written statement issued in anticipation of the amendments’ passage, Human Rights Watch said “the government’s half-hearted revision is a real disappointment.” —Aisha Labi