Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, speaks in Vienna, 24 February 2006. (OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiev)
VIENNA, 17 October 2006 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklós Haraszti, expressed his concern today about the French National Assembly's adoption in a first reading of an amendment that aims to criminalize the denial that the 1915 killings of Armenians in Turkey was genocide.
In a letter sent to the President of the French Senate, Christian Poncelet, the Representative asked the Senate members to reject the amendment when it reaches the Senate in its capacity as second chamber.
"I acknowledge the humanitarian intentions of those members of the Assembly who support this proposal. However, the adoption of the amendment raises serious concerns with regard to international standards of freedom of expression," wrote Haraszti.
"It is in the name of these same standards that I continue to call upon Turkey to remove Article 301 of the Penal Code, 'Insulting Turkish identity', which prosecutors in Turkey repeatedly use in the context of the Armenian genocide debate."
France recognized the genocide in the 19 January 2001 Law. The proposed amendment would introduce a punishment for denial amounting to one year's imprisonment and a fine of EUR 45,000.
"Both the fact of criminalization of statements, and the severity of the sanctions would infringe upon editorial freedom in France," added Haraszti. "The adoption of the amendment by France, a nation with a long-standing tradition of freedom of expression, could set a dangerous precedent for other nations of the OSCE."