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What is the Freedom of Thought?
Freedom of thought is a set of certain conditions complete with the ability to generate an idea free from all fears and concerns towards its creation, free from all threats or physical obstacles such as confiscation, prohibition and punishment, individual or collective expression of any thought without requiring any permission, a sharing the ideas thus created, a free environment of discussion that enables sharing and enrichment of the ideas thus created and finally an opportunity to put such ideas in practice to proof its validity or invalidity.
Legal and physical obstacles before human rights and democratization can only be lifted by establishing the respect for human rights in all aspects of life but above all by creating a democratic environment of discussion and expression freed from any and all threats of use of force. Freedom of expression is "sine qua non" condition for all other kinds of freedom. Freedom of thought is a fundamental freedom that is entangled and intertwined with other rights and freedoms such as freedom for science and art, freedom of press and communication, freedom of association in political parties, trade unions and foundations and freedom for participating in governance of the nation.
Use of these rights and freedoms is conditional to existence, protection and improvement of the freedom of thought and expression. First step towards a society firmly footed on human rights and a pluralistic democracy is to realize the freedom of thought and expression.
Is there freedom of thought in Turkey?
The largest obstacle in front of freedom of thought and expression in Turkey is 1982 Constitution whose limits were drawn with 12 September 1980 military coup and related legal framework. However, it has been seen that in practice, these limits are exceeded and expansionary interpretations are made, leading arbitrary limitations and even ending some people's lives through extra judicial execution.
Many laws include hundreds of articles limiting freedom of speech such as, primarily, Turkish Criminal Code, Martial Law, Fundamental Law to State Security Courts, Anti-Terror Law, Political Parties Law, Press Law, Law of Associations, Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, and Law on High Education Board. The commonly used laws for the punishment on expressing ideas are, Turkish Criminal Code 155th article regulating "the crime of alienating people from military service", 158th article regulating "the crime of insulting the prime minister", 159th article regulating "insulting Turkishness, the Republic, TGNA, spiritual identity of the government, ministries, military and police forces of the state, and spiritual identity of the courthouse", 312/8th article regulating provocation for hostility by discrimination to class, religion, race and region, and Anti-Terror Law 8th article.
Definition of a crime is so broad and changing in practice that an expression considered in scope of Anti-Terror Law 8th article once, can be punished in accordance with Criminal Code 312nd article in another time and even might be considered as guilt by association with terrorist group. Lately, it has been witnessed that some thoughts expressed in writing or verbally can be evaluated in scope of 168/2 article of Turkish Criminal Code.
Is there any progress in freedom of expression?
The governments did not keep their words for the development of the freedoms. This is not because of incapability.TGNA, which can gather and make laws very quickly when they wish, does not work enough when it is time to make something for the freedoms. That is a sign for lack of consideration in democracy and human rights.
The regulations to develop the freedoms have mainly been as making new laws to evaluate thoughts as crimes such as bringing 7th and 8th articles of Anti-Terrorist Law instead of Turkish Criminal Code 141st and 142st articles.
Releases on probation for thought criminals were nothing but to open space for new thought crimes to be arrested. With laws for release on probation, the future expressions of these who benefited from this law have been taken under "threat".
Turkey has especially discussing about democracy and human rights in last decade. Candidateship process to the EU has incensed these discussions. There is not any meaningful development in human rights field in Turkey despite domestic and external democratic public thoughts. Violation of human rights has continued increasing in some fields.
To provide freedom of expression, a new democratic approach and method is required.
Governments have prevented the implementation of freedom of speech and expression in practice with various excuses. The dangers of communism, supporting sharia law, or separatism have been used as an excuses, individually or in some periods together, in front of the development of human rights, and increasing democratic standards. It is time to stop putting the excuses such as strategic position of our country and consecutive defence approaches, or internal and external economic, social and political problems in front of non-development of democracy and limiting freedoms.
It has been announced and stated that the amendments in the Constitution are meant to develop the freedoms. For the Constitutional amendments to become meaningful, regulations are needed in related laws to develop freedoms: Unjust interpretations exceeding the laws and arbitrary obstacles must be avoided. The jurisdiction must be independent to secure all freedoms. Anybody should be able to access to their rights to legal remedies.
We must JOIN OUR FORCES to free the thoughts
We came together to secure the freedom of thought and expression in Turkey, under the Campaign for Freedom of Thoughts. We have started FREEDOM OF THOUGHTS CAMPAIGN for everyone, till the arbitrary and de facto barriers preventing the freedom of expression will end, and necessary regulations will be done to the laws limiting and preventing freedoms of expression and thought.
A great responsibility falls to NGOs, human rights organizations, unions, political parties, press and everyone living in this country. It is necessary to work globally until accomplishing a result. Thus, succeeding in our Campaign and abolishing any limitation and prohibition on freedom of expression and thought in our laws to bring to a level proper to universal human rights norms will an important step towards democratization.
For this reason, we expect the participation and support from all democratic societies to the monthly events and to provide information exchange in scope our campaign to eliminate the barriers in front of freedom of expression and thought.