Turkey: Number of “insulting Turkishness” cases drops as parliament discusses changing definition of citizenship

There has been a significant decrease in the number of cases brought under Turkey’s infamous Article 301, a recent news investigation has shown. But the law continues to be rigorously implemented.

The original version of Article 301 made it illegal to insult “Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity, or Turkish government institutions”. This was changed in 2008 when the phrase “Turkish ethnicity” was replaced by “the Turkish nation”.

The amendment also set conditions for court cases, making the permission of the Justice Ministry mandatory for complaints to be turned into court cases.

According to a report published in newspaper Taraf last week, a total of 3,019 requests were sent to the Justice Ministry between 2008 and January 2013. Although the number remains significant, it also points to a decrease when viewed on a year-by-year basis.

In 2008, a total of 559 requests were sent to the ministry. This fell to 518 in 2009. In 2010 the number of requests was 403, which fell to 324 in 2011. In 2012, a total of 287 requests were sent to the ministry.

Between 2008 and January 2013 the Justice Ministry allowed 105 of the 3,019 requests to come to court. The percentage of cases allowed to be opened was 5.77.

The General Staff of the armed forces was among the state institutions which filed complaints. A total number of 37 requests were sent from the General Staff to the Justice Ministry.

The news of the decrease in the number of Article 301 cases came in a week when the Turkish parliament discussed proposed changes in the new Turkish constitution.

If accepted, the draft new constitution will alter the definition of national identity by changing the phrase “Turkish citizenship” to “citizenship of the Republic of Turkey”. This seems in line with the amendment made to Article 301, and extends the definition of citizenship to include all ethnic groups in the country.