The following appeared on the Reporters Without Borders website, February 29, 2012
Reporters without Borders hails yesterday’s ruling by the Constitutional Council that a proposed law punishing the “denial of legally recognized genocides” is unconstitutional. It had been on the verge of being signed into law by President Sarkozy.
“We are pleased that freedom of expression has not been sacrificed to a cause, no matter how just the cause may be,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The dangerous breach opened by this law has been closed for the time being but it has already damaged the credibility of the democratic values defended by France and those who defend human rights and the Armenian cause in Turkey.
“We urge France’s politicians to renounce any intention of drafting an amended version of this law. Any thought of using legislation to establish an official history of past events should be ruled out for good after this precedent.
“The Turkish authorities must now face their responsibilities. In the name of free speech, they have for weeks been condemning the French parliament’s meddling in history. Now they must prove that their comments were not just tailored to the circumstances by allowing Turkish citizens to mention the Armenian genocide without fear of being prosecuted.
“Consistency requires that, at the very least, they immediately decriminalize two offences, insulting the Turkish nation (article 301 of the criminal code) and insulting the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Law 5816 of 25 July1951).
“This decision does not exempt Turkey from finally confronting its own history; quite the contrary. Now that Ankara no longer has the excuse of ‘foreign meddling,’ it must remove the straightjacket of official history from the Turkish republic, open a debate about the fate of Turkey’s minorities and end the growing criminalization of journalistic activities.”
Reporters Without Borders had written to France’s parliamentarians on 25 January urging them to ask the Constitutional Council to determine whether the proposed law was constitutional (see below). Inciting “discrimination, hatred or violence” continues to be punishable in France under article 24 of its 1881 press law.
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