I came across an article in Gaystarnews that reported that a Turkish journalist, Serdar Arseven, and the newspaper, Yeni Akit (now called Vakit), have been fined by Turkey’s High Court for insulting the LGBT community. The case arose because the newspaper ran an Arseven-penned piece called ‘Üskül prefers perverts,’ when, Zafer Üskül, then head of the Turkish Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, attended a meeting with KAOS GL, a leading LGBT organisation. Üskül sued both the hack and the rag. The case went all the way to the High Court. The court decided that,
“The freedom of the press does not encompass the freedom to insult the personal freedoms of individuals.”
Generally, I’m not in favour of prosecuting anyone because of an insult. It seems to me that the freedom to insult (though not to incite – a very fine line, I know) is a fundamental component of free speech. Just because I’m offended by what someone says, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to say it. However, in this case, I’m happy with the outcome because the liberal traditions that I cherish have such shallow roots in Turkey that a line must be drawn somewhere. Despite the token fine (about £1,500 for the paper and £400 for the journalist), this huge leap in the right direction should not be underestimated in a Muslim-majority country where LGBT people are, at best, invisible and at worse, well I’m sure you can guess.