Ban on access to website violates freedom of expression: Constitutional Court
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled to reverse a local court’s decision to ban access to a news website, which had posted a story criticizing the Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK), on the grounds that “the ban is a violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
“The restriction of internet access should be a last resort. If it is possible to tackle the problem of harmful content on the web by other measures, or if there is greater harm incurred than the interests protected by the restriction, then in such circumstances the decision to restrict access to a website will constitute a violation of freedom of expression and the press,” the constitutional court ruled on Oct. 26.
According to the ruling published in the official gazette on Dec. 14, the top court grounded a reversal of the local court’s decision, stating that “freedom of the press should be construed extensively in a manner that would allow exaggeration and provocation to a certain degree as a natural corollary of its close relation with democracy.”
The Ankara Fifth Criminal Court of Peace ruled to restrict access to the website airporthaber.com in 2014, after the THK chair at the time sued the site for “a violation of personal rights” by publishing articles that strongly criticized the THK and its management.
The local court ruled that calling someone a “thief” or “robber,” could not be interpreted as news and would amount to a “violation of personal rights” and temporarily restricted access to the website.
Following the ruling, Ali Kıdık, who was the author of the articles and the chief editor of the site, appealed to the Constitutional Court.
The top court ruled that the local court’s decision is a violation of expression and press, which are guaranteed by Articles 26 and 28 in the constitution and ordered for a re-trial.
“Since it is related to an institution that serves the public and lives on public donation, the information provided in the articles are of high value,” said the court, stating the articles strongly criticized the THK and even included exaggerated comments.
“Freedom of expression not only protects the content of news and ideas, it also protects the way news and ideas are expressed,” it read.