Holding signs saying “Je Suis Hrant Je Suis Charlie”, Armenian communities across Canada held events this weekend defending freedom of expression and freedom of the press by remembering martyred journalists of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo as well as Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, assassinated eight years ago on January 19, 2007. Dink, a journalist and editor-in-chief of Agos, a bilingual newspaper published in Istanbul, Turkey was shot outside his newspaper’s offices by Turkish ultra-nationalist youth, Horizon Weekly reports.
Armenian National Committee of Canada President, Dr. Girair Basmadjian said “Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had no place in Paris marching beside other world leaders who champion freedom of expression and press freedom. Turkey remains the world’s greatest offender against freedom of expression.”
Dr. Basmadjian added, “Charlie Hebdo cartoonists would have long ago been arrested under current Turkish law. In contrast to France’s swift actions to dismantle the terrorist networks responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the conspirators behind the assassination of Hrant Dink remain free to this day. If Turkey cares about freedom of expression, it must repeal Article 301, protect the rights of its minority peoples to speak the truth and bring Hrant Dink’s killers to justice.”
Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent and staunch advocate of dialogue between Armenians and Turks as well as the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey was prosecuted and convicted under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, and his life was constantly under threat by Turkish ultra-nationalists. Despite knowing that Dink was the subject of numerous threats, Turkish authorities did nothing to protect him and some were even involved in the plot that ultimately took his life.
Article 301 of Turkish penal code, which came into effect in 2005, makes it illegal to “insult” Turkey, Turkish ethnicity, or Turkish governmental institutions. It is one of the most extreme measures supported by the Turkish government to oppose freedom of speech especially regarding the issue of the Armenian Genocide.
Unfortunately, eight years later, the Republic of Turkey has done nothing to bring the true perpetrators of Dink’s assassination to justice. As well, Turkey still remains one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to imprisoning journalists. In 2014, Turkey passed new laws allowing it to control all social media. Last March, both YouTube and Twitter were blocked in Turkey despite international protests, including by the Canadian government. Therefore, it is ironic that Prime Minister Davutoglu would stand with world leaders in Paris to condemn the recent attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
Dr. Basmadjian concluded by stating that “The ANCC stands with all free-thinking people in condemning any attempt to violently restrict freedom of expression. When extremists use guns to prevent us from speaking freely, we must all make our voices heard. Je suis Hrant, je suis Charlie.”