Free Speech in Turkey

The main characteristic distinguishing people from other living beings is that they can talk and think. 

Article 10 of the Constitution of Human Rights states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” This article has international importance and is related to free speech in Turkey.

It is also related to the free speech law. Turkey is one of the countries included in the ECHR. This makes this article closely related to the scope of freedom of expression secured in the Turkish Constitution.

Laws About Freedom of Speech in Turkey

Since freedom of expression is directly related to single persons and the masses, the sections on free speech law in Turkey begin with Article 22 of the Turkish Constitution. 

Article 22 covers the freedom of communication concerning free speech in Turkey. Here, communication encompasses all types of communication that people carry out.

Articles 24 and 25 are related to the issues determining the limits of freedom of expression. The context of Article 24 is related to freedom of religion and consciousness, and the title of article 25 is “Freedom of thought and opinion.” These articles are based on protecting the freedom of persons in areas such as belief and thought. 

Also, Article 26 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey forms the basis of freedom of expression. Article 26, in Chapter 8, titled ”Freedom of expression and dissemination of thought," holds the following statement: "Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his/her thoughts and opinions by speech, in writing or pictures or through other media, individually or collectively.”

At first sight, the Turkish Constitution extensively secures freedom of expression. Yet, Article 10 of the ECHR continues as follows: “This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises."

Rights of Journalists

The questions of the free press and free speech in Turkey are regulated by Article 28 of the Constitution. According to the article, the press is free, and getting permission to establish a printing house is unnecessary. Besides, the provisions of Articles 26 and 27 of the Constitution are valid for the limitation of this article. However, the following situations make room for the restriction of free speech in Turkey by the press:

  • Publication of elements that threaten the internal and external security issues of the state
  • Publication of news or texts that will provoke society
  • Publication of works with content that will incite insurrection
  • Publishing articles and discourses encouraging insurrection against the state and separatist movements
  • Publication of inappropriate content on issues related to public safety and order or general morality

Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code covers further situations that do not fall within the scope of freedom of expression: "Any person who openly humiliates the Turkish Nation, the State of the Turkish Republic, the Turkish Grand National Assembly and judicial bodies of the State is punished by imprisonment from 6 months to 2 years.” 

This statement also includes people who openly humiliate the state's law enforcement agencies. Article 301 specifies the sections in which the freedom of the press is restricted and within the scope of Turkish criminal law.

Censorship of Media

Activities such as sharing and speaking on social media or other channels are included in areas covered by freedom of expression. These areas are also included in the scope of free speech in Turkey.

Yet, as mentioned above, the areas that do not fall under the scope of freedom of expression are specified with strict boundaries. Situations that fall under censorship in Turkey may vary depending on the audience addressed.

In a media program broadcasted publicly, sharing news that will provoke the public or make them disagree with the general moral structure is not allowed. However, sharing such content on social media is not subject to the same restrictions as those on television. In other words, Turkey's scope of free speech depends on the communication channel.

Again, there are articles in the Turkish Constitution regarding situations that do not fall within the scope of freedom of press and have criminal sanctions if they are not complied with for various reasons. 

Censorship of Art

Before moving on to the provisions of the censorship of art, we need to address the statements in Article 27 of the Constitution on freedom of art: “Everyone has the right to study and teach, Express, and disseminate science and the arts, and free to carry out research in these fields.”

However, the following part of this article is about censorship and related to free speech in Turkey: ”The provision of this article shall not preclude regulation by law of the entry and distribution of foreign publications in the country.” In the field of art, there may also be a criminal equivalent for producing content on the prohibited topics mentioned above.

Internet Censorship

Article 302 of the Turkish Penal Code deals with other issues that are not included in freedom of expression. The article includes the following statement: “Any person who commits an act to place all, or part, of the sovereignty of the territory of a foreign state under the state or to disrupt or weaken the unity of the State independence of the territory under the sovereignty of part of or separate from the state administration of the state shall be sentenced to a penalty of aggravated life imprisonment by the state.” 

The censorship of the Internet may be carried out in the cases set out in Articles 301 and 302 and in extraordinary circumstances. You can contact our Turkish criminal lawyers to learn more about free speech in Turkey. We can provide information to our Turkish and foreign clients in Turkey's free speech field. As Istanbul Lawyer Firm, we offer legal assistance with the existing case files.

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