As efforts are underway to frame a new constitution, the incumbent government of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has advanced a proposal in Parliament's Constitution Reconciliation Commission to amend the article entitled "The Freedom of Press and Publication," with potentially severe repercussions to follow.
"The freedom of press can be restricted to protect national security, public order, public morals, others' rights, private and family life; to avert crimes; to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary; to prevent warmongering and the propogation of every sort of discrimination, hostility or rancor and hatred," read the AKP's proposal, according Önder Yılmaz's news story from the daily Milliyet.
The AKP has further proposed the introduction of another clause stipulating that "No publications intended to violate the presumption of innocence can be issued" and that "The state takes measures to protect minors from publications that involve child abuse, sexuality and violence."
The AKP's proposal effectively collects all legislation pertaining to the press mentioned under separate titles under a single article.
The proposal also excludes a provision in the present constitution entitled "The Protection of the Instruments of Press."
"Printing houses and their extensions that were established as press institutions in accordance with the laws, as well as the instruments of press, cannot be seized and confiscated or barred from operations," reads the provision in the present constitution that the AKP excluded from its proposal.
In effect, if the new constitution takes shape in accordance with this proposal, then authorities could seize all instruments of press, including printing presses, as "tools of crime."
The proposal also excludes a guarantee in the current body of legislation that allows the establishment of printing houses without permission and financial assurances.
Parliament's Constitution Reconciliation Commission is going to review the proposal on August 1 along with other proposals from the People's Republican Party (CHP,) the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP.)
"Worse off than the constitution of the 1980 coup"
Meanwhile, Ahmet Abakay, the head of the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD,) told the daily Milliyet that the AKP's proposal regarding the freedom of press and publication fared off much worse the the provisions stipulated in the constitution drawn up by the Sept. 12, 1980 coup administration.
"For media employees, this amounts to a notice for martial law. Beyond the constitution, such provisions as "public morals [and] private life" are the same provisions as those which prohibit strikes, as is well known. This includes many a provisions that shatter fundamental rights and freedoms. The introduction of such provisions could have taken place in Sudan, or in tribal states. New sanctions are on the way, just as [we] were waiting for the abolition of the limitations [imposed] by the Sept. 12 [coup,]" Abakay said.
Atilla Kart, a member of the Constitution Commission from the main opposition People's Republican Party (CHP,) also said the AKP's proposal was laden with serious problems for the freedom of press.
The abolition of constitutional guarantees that allow the establishment of printing houses without permission and financial assurances is tantamount to a "guided press subordinate to us, rather than a free press," Kart said.
Deputy Kart also castigated the AKP's decision to exclude the provision in the current body of legislation that prohibits the seizure of instruments of press:
"This paves the way for the government to attribute crimes to all instruments of press that do not serve its purposes and to seize them. This represents a complete regression. This is unacceptable," he said. (EKN)