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New Europe
May 26 2008 Belgium

It's too late for Hrant Dink, the brave Armenian-Turkish newspaperman who was murdered in 2007, not long after being convicted of violating Turkey's medieval Article 301 which made it a crime to "insult Turkishness," which is pretty hard to do when so much of your history is built on bayoneting babies and your national sport is invasion.

The European Union has weakly requested that Turkey scrap Article 301 as one requirement to become a member of the European Union, where it is okay to insult all nationalities, allowed in real democracies. With
Dink's murder safely behind them, and knowing the economic benefits of being in the EU are looming, Turkey has amended its law so that it's no longer a crime to insult Turkishness. You just can't insult the Turkish nation, which means you can only insult foreigners there apparently.

What's worse than this pretentious little tap dance around the truth is that the EU has accepted it, allowing European politicians to save face while smooching behinds at the same time, an acceptable maneuver as they've long had the former so close to the latter. Any closer and they'd pass the European Commission job test. The European Parliament
has said the change is not enough, but that's yesterday's resolution for them, so they can move on to hiding their expense allowances. The change regulating alleged freedom of speech in Turkey was greeted with a quiet hallelujah in the EU, which called it "a constructive step forward." Wrong direction. Turkey prefers its critics to be six
feet under.

"This step is both positive for Turkey and an indication of Turkey's continuing commitment to the reform process," the EU said, in a press release and not face-to-face with journalists who have a nasty habit of asking pesky questions about cowardly gestures.

Turkey is getting there though. They've also reduced the penalty for insulting Turkey - which is indistinct from Turkishness - from three years in jail to two, which, if you've seen Midnight Express, means you'll still come out squealing like a pig. Where is Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Laureate who was prosecuted for violating Article 301, to write that this runningin- place change is a sham? The EU has never had to worry about insulting Turkey or Turkishness or the Turkish nation so they don't really care who goes to jail or gets killed there as long as trade continues.

The new Article 301 is the same old Article 301. "This is just lipstick for the European Union," Eren Keskin of the Human Rights Association told Deutsche Press Agentur (dpa). Keskin was found guilty of "insulting the armed forces" for suggesting the Turkish military
has too much influence, so her opinion counts.

"I do not want changes. I want the article annulled,"
Keskin said. "Stating your opinion will still be a crime," she added. Journalist and rights campaigner Ertugru Kurkcu said the new law "still leaves a lot of space for judges to decide and give their own definition of the demarcation line between criticism and insult."

Even Council of Europe Secretary Terry Davis, who's never seen a malleable law he didn't like, said he's unhappy. Well, kind of. "This is to be welcomed. However, although an analysis of the new wording indicates some progress in this respect, it does not alleviate all concerns about excessive restrictions of the freedom of expression," he said. Tough talk alright.

If you want to know what happens to people who insult Turkey in any guise, look no further than those like Dink who write about what happened in Armenia, where a million or so people were slaughtered by the Turks in a genocide or, in the Turkish version, all committed suicide simultaneously. Those dissidents go to jail, or, like Dink, into the ground, no matter what they name the law.

"This so-called reform is a joke," said Hilda Tchoboian, chairwoman of the European Armenian Federation. "The European Union should not let itself be anaesthetised by this gross manipulation of words," she said. That's an insult to the EU, which specialises in the gross manipulation of words. To be safe, the EU has put out a guide on what you can say and can't say about the Turkish nation. So far, there are no entries in the "safe" category, but the EU should not belong to any club that would have Turkey as a member. And Greek coffee

New Europe

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