Content Regulation / Censorship, Indecency / Obscenity
The Case of the Information Agency Rosbalt
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On October 2, 2014, the Turkish Constitutional Court annulled amendments to the Turkish Internet Law #5651 that permitted the government to block certain websites without a court order for reasons of “national security, the restoration of public order, or to prevent a crime from being committed.”
On March 20, 2014, in response to widespread criticism of the Turkish government on Twitter.com, the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB) issued a ban on the website. The Turkish government’s main argument was that some comments posted on Twitter raised concerns of privacy, safety, and national security concerns.
Due to this ban, several individuals petitioned the Turkish Constitutional Court arguing that the ban had no legal basis. In their argument, the complainants cited articles regarding freedom of expression in the Turkish Constitution as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). They also claimed that the ban not only constituted an interference with the right to access information but also the right to disseminate it. The Turkish Constitutional Court responded to these issues on April 2, 2014 in decision no. 2014/3986 by holding that it was indeed unconstitutional for TIB to block Twitter and ordered the ban to be lifted.
Later in 2014, the Turkish parliament on September 10, 2014 passed an amendment to the national Internet Law #5651 which potentially permitted TIB to block any website without prior court orders for reasons of “national security, the restoration of public order, or to prevent a crime from being committed.” In response to these amendments, the Turkish Constitutional Court held on October 2, 2014 in decision no. 2014/149 that these amendments were unconstitutional.
In decision no. 2014/149 issued on October 2, 2014, the Turkish Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the amendments to Internet Law #5651 which ultimately permitted the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB) to block any website without prior court orders for reasons of “national security, the restoration of public order, or to prevent a crime from being committed.” The Turkish Prime Minister criticized this judgment.
The Court’s decision indicated that the amendments to Internet Law #5651 violated of articles 26, 27, 40 and 67 of the Turkish Constitution. The overarching rationale for invalidating the regulator’s ban was that such action violated the rights of privacy and personal liberty, which are guaranteed rights under the Turkish Constitution. Similar rationales were discussion in both the Constitutional Court’s decision no. 2014/3986 (April 2, 2014) which lifted the Twitter.com ban and decision no. 2014/4705 (May 29, 2014) which lifted the YouTube.com ban.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Legally, this decision expands protection of online political expressions by invalidating certain laws and limiting the authority under which the government, in this case the Turkish Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB), can restrict access to social media. Politically, however, the mere fact that the Turkish government has attempted to ban various forms of political expression is a regressive and possibly alarming development in Turkish politics.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Articles 26-27, 40, and 67 were discussed in this case and used as justification to declare the bans as unconstitutional.
An amendment to this law passed on September 10, 2014 was overturned by this decision.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court is the final arbiter of Constitutional issues in general. More specifically, its decisions is particularly binding on government regulators and the other branches of the Turkish government.
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