Letter to the European Parliament on Turkey's banning of RichardDawkins.net
By SOPHIE IN 'T VELD MEP
Added: Mon, 24 Nov 2008 00:00:00 UTC
Brussels, 18 November 2008
Commissioner for Enlargement
rue de la Loi 200
Dear Commissioner Rehn, dear Olli,
I am writing to express my concern at reports of a Turkish court compromising freedom of expression in the context of Turkeyâs application to join the EU.
I would like you to investigate the specific example given below and attempt to see if it forms (as we fear) part of a wider picture of concern, and take the matter up with the Turkish authorities.
The example we cite relates to the blocking of the website of Professor Richard Dawkins, the world-famous evolutionary biologist. A criminal court in Istanbul reportedly banned the site in September 2008 on the grounds that it "violated" Adnan Oktar's personality after Professor Dawkins criticised Oktar creationist book 'Atlas of Creation', which is being distributed in Europe in large numbers.
The basis of our complaint is the web/press reports shown in Appendix 1, which were drawn to my attention by the UKâs National Secular Society of which I am a Honorary Associate. I am also writing as the Chair of the EU Working Group for the Separation of Religion and Politics.
Such blockings are in stark contrast to the progress you have been calling for as one of the conditions for Turkeyâs succession to the EU. What is happening is worse than Turkish authorities not standing up for freedom of expression; it appears that the stateâs mechanism itself is enforcing the restriction on freedom of expression.
Our concern about the banning does not rest in principle on Professor Dawkinsâ eminence; however the courtâs decision is all the more worrying, given it is difficult to think of anyone more qualified than him to speak on science matters, being the Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/index.shtml
We believe it essential that the EU remains committed to insisting that countries are not permitted to accede until they conform to fundamental rights. We admire your work in this area and note in Appendix 2 below a number of references you have made to requiring Turkey to improve freedom of expression, for the benefit of others who read this letter, which we regard as an open one.
I look forward to receiving confirmation that you intend to investigate the matter, and subsequently what action you intend to take, including making references to renewed concerns in your reports about the progress being made by candidate states in the vital areas of fundamental rights.
Sophie in ât Veld MEP
[see Appendix below]
We believe this page on the Turkish TV website to be the source report of the reports below
http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/459522.asp , but not being experts in Turkish cannot be certain.
Ankara - Turkish internet users have been blocked via a court order from accessing the site of prominent British biologist Richard Dawkins after complaints from lawyers for Islamic creationist author Adnan Oktar, the website of Turkish television station NTV reported on Wednesday.
A court in Istanbul ordered that Turk Telekom block access to the site and since the weekend Turkish internet users seeking the site have been redirected to a page that says in Turkish 'access to this site has been suspended in accordance with a court decision'.
NTV reported that Oktar complained he and his creationist book 'Atlas of Creation' had been defamed by comments made by Dawkins on the site.
'I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content,' Dawkins, a distinguished advocate of the theory of evolution, wrote on his website in July referring to the Atlas of Creation.
The book has caused controversy not just through its advoca[cy] of creationism but also through how thousands of copies of book were distributed to schools in a number of European countries.
Oktar has used the Turkish courts on a number of occasions, the latest being earlier this year when he attempted to have Dawkins' book The God Delusion banned in Turkey on the basis that it was insulting religion but a Turkish court threw the case out.
In August 2007, Oktar, who writes under the pen name Harun Yahya, convinced a Turkish court to block access to millions of web blogs using the Wordpress.com hosting service after finding that a number of blogs carried libellous comments.
In May, Oktar was found guilty of creating an illegal organization for personal gain and sentenced to three years imprisonment. He is appealing the decision.
(Source http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/19/religion.turkey )
The Guardian, 19 September. 2008
Missing link: creationist campaigner has Richard Dawkins' official website banned in Turkey
By Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent
A Turkish court has banned internet users from viewing the official Richard Dawkins website after a Muslim creationist claimed its contents were defamatory and blasphemous.
Adnan Oktar, who writes under the pen name of Harun Yahya, complained that Dawkins, a fierce critic of creationism and intelligent design, had insulted him in comments made on forums and blogs.
According to Oktar's office, Istanbul's second criminal court of peace banned the site earlier this month on the grounds that it "violated" Oktar's personality.
His press assistant, Seda Aral, said: "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people. We found the comments hurtful. It was not a scientific discussion. There was a line and the limit has been passed. We have used all the legal means to stop this site. We asked them to remove the comments but they did not."
Oktar, a household name in Turkey, has used hundreds of books, pamphlets and DVDs to contest Darwin's theory of evolution. In 2006 his publishers sent out 10,000 copies of the Atlas of Creation, a lavish book rejecting evolution on every one of its 800 pages.
Dawkins, one of the recipients, described the book as "preposterous". On his website the British biologist and popular science writer said he was at "a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content".
It is the third time Oktar and his associates have succeeded in blocking sites in Turkey. In August 2007 Oktar persuaded a court to block access to WordPress.com. His lawyers argued that blogs on the site contained libellous material that it was unwilling to remove. Last April he made a libel complaint about Google Groups, which was subsequently blocked.
He failed to ban Dawkins' book The God Delusion in Turkey after a court rejected his claims that it insulted religion. The God Delusion has provoked strong criticism from believers for insisting on the hypocrisy and unreliability of scripture and for lampooning creationists.
Turkey has a long track record in banning websites, and is particularly fond of blocking YouTube for allegedly offending national sensibilities. The bans have hurt its image at a time when its restrictions on free speech are under scrutiny owing to its EU membership bid.
A less detailed article on similar lines also appeared in The Times (London) on the following day, 20 September 2008 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4791175.ece
Statements made by the Enlargement Commissioner related to Turkey and Freedom of Expression
An extract from his speech to EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee in Brussels on 27 May 2008: âHowever, what ultimately counts is the proper implementation of these new provisions, and to address other outstanding issues that restrict freedom of expression and freedom of religion in Turkey.â
Article from Turkish Newspaper Milliyet, 25.8.2008
Time to revitalise Turkeyâs EU progress
[Quoting Mr. Olli Rehn]
The government's intention to adopt the third National EU reform programme will be important in this context. I am looking forward to the presentation of the programme. The Turkish EU reform agenda is comprehensive. It concerns issues such as … further measures to promote … freedom of expression.
SPEECH/08/275 Date: 27/05/2008
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