Media freedom up to ‘public morals’?

Media freedom up to ‘public morals’?

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Media freedom up to ‘public morals’

This archive photo shows thousands of people protesting against the arrests of journalists due to their reports in Turkey. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Triggering concern over the possible impact on media freedoms, members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have proposed bringing “public morals” back as a criterion in the Constitution article on freedom of speech and thought in the Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Council.

The suggestion would allow the government to limit media freedom in a variety of scenarios, as the criterion of public morals would be used in cases concerning “expression of thought via speech, writings, pictures or other means,” the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

If the idea is accepted by the council and added into the Constitution it will mean a step-back in regards to reforms carried out as part of the European Union accession process.

The reference to “public morals” within Article 13 of the 1982 Constitution, which is a legacy of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état, was deleted as part of EU reforms back in 2001.

Within the constitutional amendments made as part of EU reforms, the deletion of “public morals” from Article 13, on the general grounds that it restricted all rights and freedoms, was regarded as the most important arrangement.

Members of the Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission are currently on leave until Aug. 1. All four political parties are supposed to submit their opinions on the articles of the fundamental rights and freedoms chapter which have not been debated yet before July 25. The commission will hold its next meeting on Aug. 1.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Sezgin Tanrıkulu vowed yesterday that the CHP would strongly oppose the AKP’s proposal.

“This proposal reveals that the AKP is not in favor of press freedom. It also shows that the main objective of the AKP is not a libertarian constitution. We will strongly oppose this proposal. Several bans on the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law are not enough for the AKP and they are attempting to include them in the Constitution, this is unacceptable,” Tanrıkulu said at a press conference in the Parliament.

Altan Tan, a panel member from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), also denounced the AKP proposal. He stressed the BDP would oppose the move during talks at the Commission as well.

“People’s individual security should be taken into consideration, rather than national security. We will oppose this proposal at the Commission,” Tan told the Daily News in a telephone interview.

Faruk Bal of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) declined to comment on the issue when approached by the Daily News, but stressed that his party would reveal their position during talks at the Constitution Conciliation Commission.