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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/SE, EUR/PD, NEA/PD, DRL
JCS PASS J-5/CDR S. WRIGHT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2008


In Today's Papers

AKP's Constitutional Reforms Package
All papers report the ruling AKP government has prepared a package
of constitutional reforms. Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet and
liberal Radikal indicate the package includes provisions that ban
political parties only in cases where the parties support violence
and terror. Other provisions in the package propose new laws
regarding gender equality and children's rights. Papers expect
Prime Minister Erdogan to finalize the reform package and then the
Council of Ministers will discuss the reforms at an April 21st
meeting. Afterwards, AKP leaders will reach out to opposition
parties and independent lawmakers in an effort to secure support for
the package.

Papers: AKP Asks EU to Condemn Party Closures
All papers report Luis Mario de Puig, the new President of the
Parliament Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE), said "the Turkish
delegation demanded PACE release a declaration condemning the ban of
political parties." The declaration is expected to denounce the ban
of political parties not linked to violence. Opposition CHP deputy
chairman Onur Oymen commented, "The AKP is the first Turkish
political party to ask foreigners for support. Turkey is not a
colony." AKP lawmaker and head of the Turkish delegation to PACE
Mevlut Cavusoglu denied Puig's claims, saying his party would never
ask European institutions to take steps against Turkey, papers
report.

Parliament Committee Approves Changes to Articles 301, 305
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and
others report changes in Articles 301 and 305 of the penal code were
approved Wednesday by the parliament's EU harmonization committee.
Currently, Article 301 criminalizes the act of insulting
"Turkishness." According to the changes, the term "Turkishness"
will be replaced by the "Turkish nation." The bill requires
prosecutors to obtain approval from the presidency before they
charge someone with violating the law. The changes also lower the
maximum prison sentence to two years, which opens the way for the
suspension of the prison terms of those already convicted under
Article 301. The bill will be debated at the Parliament's Justice
Committee on Friday.

Editorial Commentary on Article 301

"Why Not Bring The Death Penalty Back!"
Mehmet Ali Birand wrote in tabloid Posta (4/17): "I am literally
tired of this Article 301 issue. The current debate over Article
301 is empty talk and has no value in being part of the public
discourse any longer. The harms caused by 301 have been raised by
many, including myself, during the last 2-3 years. Our prosecutors
have a tendency to interpret 'insulting Turkishness' in the most
exaggerated sense. The nuance between an insult and a criticism is
often ignored. After hundreds of articles about the harms caused by
301 and the need for its abolishment, the government refused to act
and said, 'there is no need to do anything.' The government has
created a mess of the Article 301 debates. By looking at the
overall atmosphere on Article 301, I suggest that 301 should remain
on the books and all of Turkey's EU reforms be reversed. Who knows,
we may protect Turkey much better if we re-introduce the death
penalty and torture."

"The 301 Debate"
Ali Sirmen wrote in leftist-nationalist leaning Cumhuriyet (4/17):
"It is terrible to see that the new Article 301 draft introduces new
obstacles to the freedom of thought even though it seeks to abolish
obstacles to freedom of thought. It is equally bad that outside
pressures instead of internal dynamics have led to this process.
The substance of the proposed changes in Article 301 does not even
deserve debate. What good could possibly come out of a mandate
given to president? In addition, we actually need a comprehensive

ANKARA 00000721 002 OF 002


change in mentality, especially within the legislative, executive
and judicial branches. However, the public must also change their
mentality. Democratic standards are measured by a country's
constitution, its laws and its public mentality. I am sure if we
try to implement Turkey's current laws in another contemporary
democratic country, the actual implementations would look much
different than Turkey. Changes to Article 301 should not be about
dancing around words. Turkey must attain a mentality of full
democratization; trivial changes in the way laws are written will
not eliminate the problems."

TGS: Turkish Warplanes Strike PKK Groups in Northern Iraq April 15
All papers report the military General Staff (TGS) announced Turkish
fighter jets "neutralized" a group of PKK terrorists in northern
Iraq on April 15th. According to the TGS announcement, the group
was preparing to stage terrorist attacks in Turkey. A TGS statement
said Turkish warplanes launched air strikes in Avasin and Basyan
regions in northern Iraq when they identified a group of PKK
terrorists preparing to cross the border. The statement added
operations against the PKK continued in the provinces of Sirnak and
Diyarbakir. Papers report convoys of military vehicles were
deployed from Cizre to Cudi and Gabar mountains.


A cartoon in the April 17 edition of "Aksam" daily:
TV Announcer: "And now the latest on the Dollar, the Euro, Oil, and
Rice..."

TV Highlights
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- Labor unions plan to stage a rally with the participation of
around 500,000 workers on May 1 in Istanbul.

- Pro-Kurdish DTP MP Aysel Tugluk said the Kurdish question could be
resolved within the framework of EU reforms, and warned that failure
to take democratization steps would boost radical trends among the
Kurds.

- President Abdullah Gul invited leaders of political parties in the
parliament to the presidential palace for a luncheon on April 23.

International News

- Pope Benedict XVI arrived Tuesday in Washington on his first visit
to the United States as pontiff.

- Bilal Huseyin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer working for
the Associated Press in Iraq, was freed from U.S. military custody
on Wednesday after being held for two years.

- Israeli forces killed 13 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in
the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Reports indicate a cameraman
working for Reuters was killed when an Israeli tank opened fire.

DEBLAUW

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