The Turkish Constitutional Court’s Decision No. 2017/39464 dated 23 February 2022 regarding the violation of a teacher’s freedom of expression was published in the Official Gazette on 27 April 2022. The Constitutional Court evaluated the freedom of expression of public personnel in general. The decision is available in Turkish here.
The applicant is a high school teacher and a board member and secretary of a union. The applicant attended a meeting of the Provincial Disciplinary Board regarding a public personnel’s delayed evacuation of their lodgings. After the meeting, the Applicant shared a post on their social media account stating, “The government should look after their personnel rather than abandoning them.” The applicant was subject to a disciplinary punishment due to their statement. The applicant applied to the administrative court for the annulment of the decision but both the administrative court and the regional administrative court upheld the decision. The applicant applied to the Constitutional Court.
Scope of the Decision
The Constitutional Court evaluated the allegations within the scope of freedom of expression and the press, pointing out that the restrictions on rights and freedoms must: (i) have a lawful basis; (ii) rely on legitimate causes under the Turkish Constitution; and (iii) comply with the needs of a democratic society and the principle of proportionality according to Article 13 of the Turkish Constitution. The Constitutional Court focused its evaluations on compliance with the requirements of a democratic society.
The Constitutional Court stated that it is legitimate for the states to impose duties and responsibilities on public personnel, including duty of royalty. The Constitutional Court further stated that their duties as public personnel does not eliminate their freedom of expression and they can make criticisms, provided that their expressions are balanced and objective. Accordingly, the expressions of public personnel must be assessed based on whether the expressions are politically neutral, balanced and objective.
The Constitutional Court stated that the meeting was not confidential and the views and discussions in the meeting, which were not reflected in the meeting notes, were not shared by the applicant. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court evaluated that the applicant acted with the aim of defending the rights of a personnel as a union member; expressing their opinions on the meeting does not violate their duties and responsibilities as a public personnel and falls under the freedom of expression. In light of these evaluations, the Constitutional Court decided that the disciplinary punishment does not correspond to a compulsory need.
In the decision at hand, the Constitutional Court assessed the freedom of expression of public personnel and evaluated that public personnel can criticize matters that do not preclude their objectivity.