No one can insult Erdogan, not in Turkey
Of late Turkey has made frequent headlines with respect to its stamping down on freedom to speech and expression. Many journalists, activities and political leaders have been put behind the bars for raising dissenting voice against the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The state did not even differentiate with minors if the issue at hand was related to insulting the Turkish leader.
A recent report put out by the Turkish Justice Ministry showed that a high number of people have been jailed or put under trial for insulting Erdogan, the list even included 903 minors – aged between 12 and 17, over the past few years.The reported highlighted that in the last six years, Ankara carried out about 128,872 investigations with regard to incidents of making insulting remarks towards the Turkish President. Out of this staggering list of probes, 27,717 faced criminal charges against them and 9,556 cases were awarded imprisonment.
The regime extensively used the article 299 of Turkish Penal Code for carrying out these arrests as the article allowed the state to do so in the name of protecting “public order and democratic society”. Ironically, the country has been one of the founding members of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a clause of which clarified that a speech should be interpreted as a whole, rather than focusing on a few words to label it as a crime of insult.
Turkish authorities did exactly the opposite as commanded by ECHR in September, when the state sentenced former co-chair of Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Sebahat Tuncel for 11 months over charges of insulting the president, as she said that Erdogan was “an enemy of women and Kurds.”Many critics believe that it was only the ruling government’s tactic to suppress dissenting voices opposing Erdogan. “Those who have been investigated for insulting the President could easily run a political party together and pass the electoral threshold with the support of their relatives,” lawyer Ali Gul tweeted. Many rights group and opposition leaders also slammed Ankara’s convenientarian use of article 299 to build an atmosphere of fear.
Few instances of insults included, two children, aged 12 and 13, who tore Erdogan’s posters in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, were charged and eventually imprisoned in 2015. In 2014, a 16-year old student was taken out of his class by using police from (for insulting Erdogan). The act stands prohibited even as per the UN charter for child rights.
The recent case of Turkish journalist Ender Imrek showed regime’s iron first rule as he was accused of “insulting” Erdogan’s wife, Emine Erdogan, but was later found to be innocent. Imrek’s crime was that last year he wrote an article criticizing the lavish lifestyle of Ankara’s first lady as she was seen in public with handbag, worth-$50,000, while the economy sank and people of the country suffered from hunger and unemployment. Imrek’s faced a trial over the charges that he had insulted the First Lady by “not praising her.”