The Justice Ministry and the Council of Europe (COE), the oldest European intergovernmental organization to promote human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in its 47 member states, have formed an informal working group to discuss issues relating to freedom of expression in the country. The group held its first meeting last week in Ankara with the participation of COE officers and Justice Ministry officials and a representative from Turkey's telecommunications authority (TİB).
The working group was established at the beginning of the year as part of Turkey's Action Plan to prevent violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. Regarding the working group, COE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said, "There was progress today. Now we are looking forward to real change." In the meeting, the judgments from the European Court of Human Rights were highlighted and the application of anti-terror legislation and provisions within the penal code affecting freedom of expression were discussed. Issues relating to the implementation of defamation laws and criminal sanctions (Articles 125 and 299 of the penal code), deprivation of liberty affecting journalists, including cases registered on the Council of Europe Platform for the Safety of journalists and measures to filter and block websites were discussed in the meeting.
At the end of the meeting the working group agreed that the COE will facilitate an open dialogue between the Justice Ministry, the judiciary and representatives from civil society and a high-level conference will be held in Ankara as early as possible in the first half of 2016 to feed into a review of anti-terror legislation, relevant provisions of the penal code, internet law, and the practical implementation of these laws, in the context of the convention and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
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