Top court continues to reverse unconstitutional moves
When we were all focused on Oct. 2 on a parliamentary debate about the motion allowing the army to mobilize against potential threats from jihadists in Iraq and Syria, Turkey’s top court made a very important decision by annulling a governmental law aiming at increasing the government’s control on the use of the Internet.
The much-criticized law was passed on Sept. 10 in a series of other legislation to that end after the government faced a serious social media campaign on corruption claims. The Constitutional Court, however, ruled the authority to close websites within four hours on the basis of national security, protecting public order, or preventing crime as “unconstitutional.”
It was not first time that the Constitutional Court annulled governmental moves on the basis of their “unconstitutionality.” Its most landmark decision was the annulment of the blanket shut down of Twitter in early 2014, drawing strong reactions from the ruling party, which described the court’s ruling as “non-national.” In the absence of efficient check-and-balance mechanisms, the court is shining like the sole defender of Turkey’s constitutional values.
But the reaction of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was harsh against the court’s ruling. “The Constitutional Court may be perceived as a hero of liberty by some circles, but it can’t protect my rights,” Davutoğlu said in a televised interview Oct. 2.
Davutoğlu placed his argument on the abuse of the Internet that could hurt family values and negatively affect the children and youth, as well as breach personal rights. “The Constitutional Court cannot guarantee freedom from insults for four hours,” he stated.
“It’s the easy way to talk about freedom in these cases. It’s not to be praised by some people, but the protection of each and every right of citizens that will put freedom on a real ground, the judiciary should consider that,” he said.
It’s also the easy way to talk about bans and imposing restrictions – when it comes to issues the government dislikes – instead of providing necessary information and education to the people on the safe use of the Internet. It’s the easy way to distribute tablets to primary and secondary school students, but the hardest way is to teach them to efficiently use the Internet, which would allow the increase in the level of quality of education.
The deterioration in the freedom of speech was on the agenda of a delegation of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) that held talks with prominent Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Davutoğlu.
According to the CPJ, Erdoğan said he was “increasingly against the Internet every day.” Citing his concern that criminal and terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are using the Internet to recruit followers, Erdoğan defended his government’s efforts to control online speech. The president’s remarks could be ironically evaluated as a strategic “fight against the Internet to fight against ISIL.”
All these developments are taking place days before the release of the Progress Report by the European Union, citing what fields Turkey has shown improvement and on what fields it lacks an efficient harmony with EU norms. It is obvious freedom of speech and press can be perfectly cited in areas where Turkey should show a meaningful improvement.