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Turkish pianist sentenced for comments on Twitter

24 April, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Meinungsfreiheit: Türkischer Pianist wegen Twitter-Kommentaren verurt...

On 15 April 2013, the Criminal Court of Justice of Istanbul gave Turkish pianist Fazil Say a 10 month suspended jail sentence over comments on Twitter, deciding he was guilty of violating an article of the Turkish Criminal Code that forbids the “denigration of the religious values held by a section of society”.

The pianist was prosecuted in June 2012 by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office after he had posted a series of tweets on Twitter and was accused of insulting Islam, while the pianist argued he had just retweeted a line from a poem and that his comments were politically justified.

It is not clear if Say was convicted for retweeting the poem or actually for his religion-related comments. But the issue is not whether Say is politically correct or polite, but that his right to freedom of expression was limited.

“This sentence is in violation of the right to freedom of expression. People are entitled to pass comment, share views and make reference to debates which other people may find offensive, insulting or upsetting. It is vital that people are able to share thoughts and engage in public debates, including on issues concerning religion”, said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of EDRi member Article 19 who has shown concern over the decision of the Turkish court.

The Turkish law says: “A person who publicly scorns the religious values adopted by a segment of the society, in the case that the act is directed toward disrupting public peace, will be penalized by a six-month to one-year prison term.” (Article 216/3). Even a critic of Say’s comments, such as Taha Akyol, considers that Say’s words, disrespectful or annoying as they may be, do not represent “an open and imminent danger,” or a feature “disruption to social peace.”

NGO Article 19 calls on the Turkish government to take measures to ensure freedom of expression online as well as off-line and overturn Fazil Say’s sentence. The group also calls on a revision of the Turkish Criminal Law (Article 126 based on which Say was convicted) to bring it in line with the international standards on free expression, including the European Convention of Human Rights, of which Turkey it is a signatory.

Turkey: Quash Twitter pianist sentence in honour of free speech (16.04.2013)

Turkish pianist Fazil Say convicted of insulting Islam (15.04.2013)

Fazil Say should pay for his deeds, Turkish deputy PM says (19.04.2013)

The Fazil Say incident (18.04.2013)



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