Talking Turkey

Its interesting to visit a country just as some newsworthy event happens and, just as I flew into Istanbul on Friday to visit Amnesty International Turkey, the country seemed to be heading inevitably towards military action in neighbouring Iraq.

My knowledge of the Turkish language is poor (okay, non existent) but somehow I doubt whether the thousands crowding the bars, restaurants and shops in this truly amazing city were talking of such events. The rugged mountains dividing Turkey from northern Iraq seemed a very long way away.

But a big story this has been and it was leading bulletins on TRT - Turkish State Television - while I was there. I know that because they showed part of a bulletin on the plane home, with subtitles. After the Harry Potter film.

Today Im able to read up a little on the crisis, which has been sparked by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group launching attacks on Turkish army patrols on the border. As the Independent explains, the party is proscribed as a terrorist group in the UK, the US and several other countries.

Im happy to mention that but if I hadnt described the PKK in this way I wouldnt expect to be arrested. Apparently thats exactly the fate that befell someone in Turkey who described the PKK as an armed opposition group rather than as terrorists.

Imagine being arrested simply for the way you described something! Sadly its another indication of the extent to which the fundamental right to freedom of expression comes under threat each day in Turkey and the challenge faced by my remarkable colleagues at Amnesty Turkey.

To show your support for freedom of expression, join us in telling the Turkish authorities to stop prosecuting individuals under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and to abolish the article in its entirety by clicking here. Article 301makes it illegal to "denigrate Turkishness".

Weve been an unusually well travelled lot in the press office of late. Two of us in Turkey and, as youll have read in Fridays blog, another at the UN in New York. Check out todays Financial Times for a report of the moves there, supported by Amnesty, towards trying to get a moratorium on the death penalty.

News at Ten became famous for its lighthearted And Finally stories that supposedly sent us off to bed with a smile. Thats a good excuse to close this blog with mention of  the return of News at Ten and its presenter Sir Trevor McDonald. Fans of Sir Trev will be pleased, of course, but I presume this will mark the end of ITVs satirical News Knight (geddit?) after only one series.

A shame: we need more satire on TV. Being able to laugh at our laws and lawmakers is one of the best things about freedom of expression.

Be seeing you.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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