Turkey to Alter Speech Law

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When Atilla Yayla, a maverick political science professor, offered a mild criticism of Turkey’s first years as a country, his remarks unleashed a torrent of abuse.

“Traitor!” a newspaper headline shouted. His college dismissed him. State prosecutors in this western city, where he spoke, opened a criminal case against him. His crime? Violating an obscure law against insulting the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder.

“I need thoughts to counter my ideas,” Mr. Yayla said. “Instead they attacked me.”

Turkey’s government has taken on the issue of free speech and is expected as early as Friday to announce a weakening of a law against insulting Turkishness, an amendment that is considered a key measure of the democratic maturity of this Muslim country as it tries to gain acceptance to the European Union.

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