Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008
In Today's Papers
PACE Releases Declaration on AKP Closure Case
All papers reported over the weekend the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe (PACE) released a declaration which expressed
concern about the closure suit against Turkey's ruling party, the
AKP. The PACE statement, however, has caused controversy since last
Wednesday, when Luis Maria Puig, the head of PACE, told the press
the Turkish delegation, led by the ruling AKP, demanded a statement
condemning the case. The AKP denied such charges, but the
opposition CHP attacked the government for seeking international
support in what was an internal matter. The declaration signed by
the leaders of the Christian Democrat, Socialist, Liberal and United
European Left groups in PACE urges Turkey to pass reforms to protect
political parties from closure. The declaration says, "It is
unacceptable to close down political parties who are not linked to
violence." Islamist-oriented Zaman sees it as a "powerful message"
for Turkey because the declaration was signed by all political
groups represented in PACE. Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet,
however, recalls on Saturday, "The declaration was released after
the request from AKP officials." Mainstream Hurriyet however notes
on Saturday that, "The declaration, signed by only 21 of the 370
members of PACE, did not meet the expectations of the AKP who
allegedly requested it." Papers say the declaration also emphasizes
the importance of respecting the independence of the judiciary.
European Parliament to Vote on "Turkey Report"
All papers report the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign
Affairs will vote on the "Turkey Report" drafted by PACE reporter
Ria Oomen-Ruijten. The report urges the Turkish government and the
parliament to carry out, "as a priority," the promised reform of
Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The report expresses concern
about the lawsuit banning the AKP and calls on the Constitutional
Court to comply with European standards and the Venice Criteria.
The report encourages Turkish authorities to pursue investigations
into the Ergenekon network in order to "fully uncover the shadowy
organization's networks which reach into the state structures, and
to bring those involved to justice." In addition, the report,
"urges the Turkish government to launch, as a matter of priority, a
political initiative towards a lasting settlement to the Kurdish
issue," and calls on the pro-Kurdish DTP "to engage constructively
in the quest for a political solution to the Kurdish issue within
the democratic Turkish state." It urges the PKK to unconditionally
lay down its arms. On Cyprus, the report says, "the withdrawal of
Turkish forces would facilitate the negotiation of a settlement."
Justice Committee of Turkish Parliament Approves Changes to Article
Papers report over the weekend the Turkish Parliament's Justice
Committee approved changes to Article 301 of the penal code on
Friday. According to the Committee's recommendations, the authority
to permit the launch of legal procedures related to Article 301
should reside with the Justice Ministry, and not to the President as
initially expected. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code
criminalizes insulting "Turkishness." Under the changes proposed by
the government, the term "Turkishness" will be replaced by the
"Turkish nation." The bill lowers the maximum punishment from three
to two years, which opens the way for the postponement of the prison
term of those convicted under Article 301.
Editorial Commentary on Revision of Penal Code Article 301
"Article 301 and the Government"
Oktay Eksi wrote in mainstream Hurriyet (4/20): "If it were not for
the AKP closure case, changes to Article 301 would not be on the
agenda. Prior to the closure case, the government was completely
reluctant to change this notorious law. Thanks to the EU, the
changes are now on the agenda. The sad part of this story is that
this mistake was corrected despite the government. Turkish NGOs
have worked tirelessly to encourage the government to expand
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legislation to protect freedoms and human rights. While the
government did not take action based on Turks' suggestions, the
government did take action based on the EU's suggestions. Our wish
is to see Turkey move forward on matters related to freedom and
democracy through its own impetus before facing international
pressure. When and if that happens, we will give the government a
Turkish Cabinet to Discuss May 1 as Official Holiday
Milliyet, Sabah, and Radikal report Turkey's Council of Ministers
will decide Monday whether to declare May 1 as an official holiday.
Last week, AKP lawmaker Agah Kafkas submitted a bill to parliament
to declare May 1 as "Unity and Solidarity Day." Labor Minister
Faruk Celik said several labor unions asked Prime Minister Erdogan
to declare May 1 an official holiday.
PKK Terrorist Captured in Diyarbakir
All papers report police captured a PKK terrorist and two suspected
accomplices in Diyarbakir. The suspects were allegedly preparing
for bomb attacks in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city. A
statement from the Governor's Office said the main suspect was
trained in PKK camps outside Turkey. Police seized 451 grams of
plastic explosives, hand grenade fuses, four laptops, and three
Meanwhile, four PKK members and one Turkish soldier were killed in
clashes in Kagizman on the eastern border province of Kars.
Editorial Commentary on Global Food Crisis
"Power, Energy and the Future"
Soli Ozel wrote in mainstream Sabah (4/20): "Given the nature and
frequent number of disasters, the world appears headed toward an
apocalyptic period. This global food crisis comes with potentially
grave consequences. It is possible this time that the global food
crisis will be more devastating than ever before. In addition, the
world population is heavily condensed in the cities instead of rural
areas. In the event of a crisis, population density plus a lack of
an educated populace in these cities could lead to more violence.
It is also incorrect to assume a food crisis will only affect less
developed nations. Indeed, a crisis of this scale will create mass
migration, which will be enough to create a global security issue.
Food and energy are the main sources of upcoming global problems,
including potential wars. Changing the course of such a disaster
requires massive change in consumption habits across the world."
- On April 23, President Abdullah Gul will host a luncheon for the
leaders of political parties that have seats in the parliament.
- Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik will visit Turkey on
Monday as the guest of her Turkish counterpart Foreign Minister Ali
- Meat prices are expected to climb at least 20 this summer.
- The third expanded ministerial meeting between Iraq, its neighbors
and permanent members of the UN Security Council will be held in
Kuwait on Tuesday.
- United Nations' food envoy Jean Ziegler said global food price
rises are leading to a "silent mass murder."
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- On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace at the World Trade
Center's Ground Zero. Afterwards, he met with a group of families
of victims of the September 11 attacks.