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Turkish Constitutional Court’s Recent Decision on Freedom of Expression

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Recent development

The Turkish Constitutional Court’s new decision, No. 2019/21340 dated 22 February 2022, on the violation of an applicant’s (“Applicant“) freedom of expression was published in the Official Gazette on 5 April 2022. The Constitutional Court evaluated the balance between freedom of expression and protection of honor and reputation of others in the decision. The decision is available in Turkish here.


The Applicant published news and opinion articles regarding a debate between a provincial chair and a deputy at the district congress of a political party. In the news articles, the Applicant criticized the deputy for comparing the people in the political party to persons of other nations and a petition campaign was initiated against the deputy within the party. On the other hand, the deputy rejected the claims and filed an indemnity claim against the newspaper. The court of first instance listened to the recordings of the deputy’s speech and accepted the indemnity claim, concluding that the analogy was not mentioned in the speech and, hence, the news was untrue. The Applicant’s objection was rejected and the Applicant brought the matter before the Constitutional Court.

What does the decision cover?

The Constitutional Court evaluated the allegations within the scope of freedom of expression and press and pointed out that the restrictions on rights and freedoms must: (i) have a lawful basis; (ii) rely on legitimate causes under the Constitution; and (iii) comply with the needs of a democratic society and the principle of proportionality, according to Article 13 of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court focused its evaluations on compliance with the requirements of a democratic society. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court evaluated whether the award of nonpecuniary damage against the Applicant corresponds to a compulsory need, whether it is proportional to the legitimate aim and whether the grounds of the decision of the court of first instance are relevant and sufficient.

The Constitutional Court stated that because the debate at the political party’s district congress concerns the agenda of the province and district, the news articles contribute to a recent and public debate. The Constitutional Court further emphasized that journalists must be much more careful especially in terms of news concerning an individual and must research the accuracy of the news. Accordingly, journalists are expected to support their content with concrete facts even if they cannot fully prove the accuracy of the content. The Constitutional Court pointed out that journalists are not expected to act as prosecutors regarding the accuracy of the news but they should research and include the source of the allegations against a person in the news. As for the evaluation of sources, they must reasonably investigate whether the sources are reliable and must be able to demonstrate that they are acting in good faith to present accurate information.

In this case, the Constitutional Court considered that the allegations regarding the deputy were confirmed by the political party’s provincial chair and that a petitions campaign was initiated within the party on the subject. In addition, the statements sent by the deputy to the newspaper were also published in the newspaper and the allegations of all the parties were presented to the reader together. Therefore, the Constitutional Court decided that the newspaper fulfilled its responsibility. Thus, the Constitutional Court concluded that imposing sanctions on the journalist for news articles that rely on clear sources would prevent open discussions on matters of public interest. In the light of these evaluations, the Constitutional Court decided that freedom of expression and the press of the Applicant was violated because the decision of the court of first instance was not based on relevant and sufficient grounds.


In the decision at hand, the Constitutional Court evaluated the duties and responsibilities of the press and underlined that journalists need to be careful in terms of news articles that concern accusations about others. The Constitutional Court further noted that the sanctions against the press, in particular regarding news of public interest, hinders open discussion of matters of public interest and violate freedom of expression.