Turkish court says profane reports within limits of ‘press freedom’

Turkish court says profane reports within limits of ‘press freedom’

Mesut Hasan Benli - ANKARA
Turkish court says profane reports within limits of ‘press freedom’

CİHAN photo

A local court in Ankara has dismissed an appeal to block reports including profanity and hate speech, apparently directed at a number of academics who had signed a petition calling for an end to the ongoing violence in Turkey’s southeast, saying the reports were “within the scope of press freedom.”   

The reports were within the boundaries of the freedom of press, the Ankara 2nd Criminal Court of Peace said in its refusal earlier this week, while arguing the press may make “comments” in its reports in order to make them “more striking.”

The academics had appealed to the court, complaining their personal rights had been attacked by daily Yeni Akit newspaper and the newspaper’s online portal, Akit Haber, in reports titled “Don’t dwell on it, kick off these men” and “Certificated perverse.” In the reports, phrases such as “gay lesbian professor,” “certificated perverse,” “Armenian lovers,” “pro-protectorate” and “the bitch who called Muslims ‘son of a bitch’ is also a signatory,” were directed towards the complainant academics, whose names were openly cited.

“Each sentence of the reports contains threats and insults against the clients and other signatories. In the entirety of both of the reports, language which disassociates with society and which aims to create enmity within society is being used. On the other hand, the clients’ and other signatories’ call for peace via the use of their most legitimate right is being criminalized,” Seher Kırbaş Canikoğlu, a lawyer for the academics, said in her appeal to the court.

The reports were published in criticism of some 1,128 local and international academics and intellectuals who last month issued a manifesto calling for end to military operations in southeast Turkey.

“In addition to conveying incidents to the public, the press and broadcast media can make comments while remaining within the boundaries of criticism. Criticizing the press’ functionality and commenting to make reports more striking in a way that does not harm personal rights should be considered within the freedom of the press,” the court said, while refusing the appeal. 

The court suggested “subjective criticism within the boundaries of legal compliance is an indispensable element of informing society” and concluded that “the contents of the reports remained within the scope criticism and freedom of the press and didn’t intend to attack the personal rights of the applicants.”

Universities and prosecutors’ offices across Turkey launched investigations into many of the academics who signed the petition, arguing it went beyond the limit of academic freedom. In a majority of the investigations, the prosecutors have based their arguments on controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TSK) which criminalized “denigration of the Turkish nation, the state of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish parliament, the government of the Republic of Turkey and the legal institutions of the state” and accused the signatories of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”