Muiznieks condemns sentence against cartoonists, urges Turkey to decriminalize defamation

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks has condemned a recent jail sentence against two cartoonists from a popular Turkish satirical magazine for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and urged Turkish authorities to decriminalize defamation, including insulting the president. In a statement on Thursday, Muiznieks expressed concern about the reports indicating there is an increase in the number of criminal cases for alleg

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks has condemned a recent jail sentence against two cartoonists from a popular Turkish satirical magazine for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and urged Turkish authorities to decriminalize defamation, including insulting the president.

In a statement on Thursday, Muiznieks expressed concern about the reports indicating there is an increase in the number of criminal cases for alleged insults against President ErdoIan.

andldquoIn this connection, I condemn the recent sentencing of cartoonists BahadIr Baruter and andOumlzer AydoIanandhellip This sentence is misguided and, along with a pattern of criminal prosecutions, sends a chilling message to media professionals and all those who want to exercise their right to free expression,andrdquo Muiznieks said.

BahadIr Baruter and andOumlzer AydoIan, cartoonists for the magazine Penguen, have each been sentenced to almost one year in prison for insulting President ErdoIan by implying in a cartoon that he is a homosexual. The prison sentence of 11 months, 20 days was converted into a fine by the court and cartoonist will pay each a total of TL 7,000, ie, TL 20 in lieu of each day of imprisonment.

The commissioner underlined that the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) affords a great deal of protection to freedom of expression, including to information or ideas that may andldquooffend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.andrdquo

andldquoI urge the authorities to decriminalize defamation, including by repealing the offense of insulting the president of the republic, in order to restore a more serene climate in which freedom of expression can be safely exercised,andrdquo Muiznieks said, referring to an article in the Constitution that criminalizes insulting the president.

Dozens of people, including journalists, high school students, activists and even a former Miss Turkey, have been prosecuted for insulting ErdoIan on social media

In a cartoon published on the cover of the Aug. 21, 2014 issue of the weekly magazine, shortly after ErdoIan was elected president, a civil servant is seen shaking hands with ErdoIan in front of the presidential palace during a welcoming ceremony, with the thumb and forefinger of his other hand in the shape of a ring as he tries to fasten a button on his jacket as a sign of respect.

In Turkey, the sign, when made with a thumb and a forefinger, implies that the person that the sign is directed toward is homosexual. Cem S, a man who identifies as a sympathizer of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), informed the Prime Ministry Communication Center (BIMER) that the front-page cartoon of Penguen showed a andquotayandquot signal in reference to ErdoIan.

h2Penguen says sentence against its cartoonist a stretch, vows to continue drawingsh2

In the meantime, representatives from Penguen, where the controversial cartoon was published, defined the sentence as a stretch regarding press freedom and freedom of thought in Turkey and vowed to continue draw cartoons freely. Penguen said it is very sad first and foremost, and the fact that the case, which was opened because of a cartoon, ended in such a sentence being handed down wounded them both as cartoonists and citizens.

andldquoWe find a case being opened because of the cartoon on our magazineand#39s front page despite it not involving an insulting factor to be a stretch, in terms of freedom of thought. It is worrisome also in the area of freedom of the press,andrdquo Penguen said, adding: andldquoWe will continue to draw our cartoons as we like.

We hope that this case will be the latest example of intimidating free thought.andrdquo

The controversial cartoon depicts President ErdoIan being welcomed to the newly built presidential palace, known as Ak Saray.

The man welcoming the president is shown saying: andldquoCongratulations, sir Welcome to your palace,andrdquo while holding one hand out to greet the president and the other against his suit with his fingers in a ring shape. President ErdoIan, in response, is shown with a displeased expression, saying: andldquoWhat a bland celebration.

We could have at least sacrificed a journalist [to eat].andrdquo

.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman