Euro court fines Turkey over conviction of publishing company owner
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided on Sept. 4 that the conviction of a publishing company owner for publishing a book concerning the disappearance of a journalist violates Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, thereby fining Turkey 2,500 euros.
The case concerns the application of Fatih Taş, whose publishing company released a book in April 2004 called “Kayıpsın Diyorlar” (“They say you disappeared” in English) regarding the disappearance of a journalist in 1994. The author of the book claims the journalist in question had been abducted by village guards and special police operation teams while he was in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa’s Siverek district working on an investigative report.
In July 2004, Taş was initially charged with “denigrating the Turkish Republic” and received a sentence of six months. Following an appeal to the Court of Cassation, Taş was eventually ordered in November 2008 to pay a fine of 1,650 Turkish Liras.
On Dec. 30, 2008, Taş took his case to the ECHR and complained the ruling by the Turkish courts over his case lacked independence and impartiality.
After studying the passages of the book to which Turkish courts had referred to in convicting Taş, the ECHR noted that while they certainly contained criticisms of state authorities that were at times harsh and exaggerated, they had in no way been “gratuitously offensive” or insulting and had not incited violence or hatred.
Consequently, the ECHR ruled that the “criminal proceedings complained of not having met a pressing social need and had in any event not been proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued.”
Accordingly, in a ruling on Sept. 4 the ECHR concluded Turkish authorities had not carried out an appropriate balancing exercise between the applicant’s right to freedom of expression and the legitimate aims pursued, ordering the Turkish government to pay Taş 2,500 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage.