IPI welcomes top court’s ruling on Turkish journalist, expects progress
HÜRRİYET photoThe Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has welcomed a Turkish Constitutional Court ruling that said a suspended prison sentence given to a journalist violated freedom of expression.
But the IPI stressed that the true test of the impact of the decision, which cited rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, will be whether lower courts observe it and whether it leads to renewed efforts to reform laws giving government officials heightened protection from scrutiny.
“The lower courts need to ensure their rulings on cases involving defamation or insult meet the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey has signed; prosecutors need to stop bringing cases that chill journalists from reporting legitimate criticism of public officials; and lawmakers need to move to amend these laws, to make sure that they cannot be used to stifle reporting on matters of public interest,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said.
“Equally importantly, Turkish government officials need to accept that a position as a public servant requires them, in order to uphold the public trust, to accept a greater degree of scrutiny. While sometimes unpleasant for them, that is absolutely vital to the function of democracy,” Ellis added.
The top court’s ruling came after an individual application filed by daily Cumhuriyet columnist Bekir Coşkun, who was sentenced to one year, two months and 17 days in jail on charges of “insulting a public official through the media.” The sentence was suspended, but Coşkun still took the case to the top court.
“Acceptable limits to criticism of politicians are larger than acceptable limits to criticism of other people.
Unlike others, a politician intentionally opens each of his or her statements and actions to the public, as well as other politicians’ scrutiny,” the Constitutional Court stated.
The case against Coşkun was opened because of an article dated July 4, 2013 and titled “Painted Stairs.” The article was penned during the Gezi protests of June 2013, when a peaceful sit-in protesting the redevelopment of one of the few remaining green areas in the heart of Istanbul, Gezi Park, escalated into nationwide street protests involving over two million people.
IPI has regularly continued to voice its concerns over democracy in Turkey with its increasing violations of press freedom and freedom of expression.