MESOP MIDEAST WATCH : Turkey’s top court urges Parliament to eliminate structural problems within a year

The Constitutional Court has concluded that the access blocks imposed on some news stories published on a series of news websites such as BirGün, Gazete Duvar and Diken were in violation of their rights and ruled for payment of damages.İstanbul – BIA News Desk07 January 2022,

The Constitutional Court, in a statement on October 27, 2021, announced that it handed down a pilot ruling regarding access blocks. The top court pronounced its detailed pilot ruling today (January 7).

The Court examined the similar applications of news websites and online editions of newspapers such as BirGün, Artı Gerçek, SoL, Diken and TarımdanHaber as well as columnist Çiğdem Toker and concluded that the access blocks on 129 news stories in total violated rights.

The top court has concluded that freedom of expression and press and right to an effective remedy as per Articles 26, 28 and 40 of the Constitution have been violated by the related access blocks.

Noting that the rights violations are caused by a structural problem, the Constitutional Court has concluded that the ‘pilot ruling method’ shall be implemented and ‘the Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall be notified of the arbitrariness in order to eliminate the structural problem.’

The top court has also ruled that some applicants shall be paid 8,100 Turkish Lira (TRY) in non-pecuniary damages each and the court expenses, along with the official accrued interest, shall be paid back to them.

As per this pilot ruling, if the Parliament fails to introduce a new legal regulation within a year, the Constitutional Court will hand down rulings of rights violation for all similar other applications on access blocks.

The highlights from the ruling are as follows: The scope of the access block procedure shall be legally and sufficiently clear; an obligation of immediate social need shall be introduced for access blocks; the limits of interference of public institutions shall be set; assurances that will not lead to arbitrary practices shall be determined; access blocks shall be open to appeals; criminal judgeships of peace shall impose access blocks as a last resort.

Access blocks in Turkey

According to the figures shared by the Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD), in the last 14 years, access blocks have been imposed on 467,011 websites by 408,808 different decisions given by 764 different institutions (courts and administrative institutions) in Turkey. Only in 2020, 58,809 websites were blocked to access in the country.

The same report shows that in 2020, as per 819 different decisions given by 236 different criminal judgeships of peace, access blocks were imposed on 5,645 news URLs. Since February 2014, 22 thousand 554 news URLs have been blocked to access. As of the end of 2020, the number of access blocks imposed as per the Law no 5651 and other laws were as follows:

  • 467,011 websites
  • 150,000 URL addresses
  • 7,500 Twitter accounts
  • 50,000 tweets
  • 12,000 YouTube videos
  • 8,000 Facebook posts
  • 6,800 Instagram posts

Click here for the summary ruling and here for the full ruling

What is a pilot ruling?

In the event that the Constitutional Court concludes that an individual application stems from a structural problem and foresees that the related problem can be solved by other means, it gives a pilot ruling.

The top court specifies one or more files and gives a single ruling about similar applications. In this ruling, principles as to how this structural problem can be resolved are put forward. The administrative authorities are asked to resolve the problem within the framework of these principles. If the problem is not resolved within the specified period of time, the Constitutional Court examines all files and gives a ruling of rights violation.