The Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights organised, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of Turkey, the High Level Conference on Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom in Turkey.

Delivering the opening speech, Secretary General Thorbjrn Jagland stressed the need for action to bring Turkish legislation in line with Council of Europe standards. "There are still 450 cases pending against Turkey in the field of freedom of expression. This is simply too much" he said, referring to the latest statistics of the ECHR. "What is needed is a complete overhaul of the anti-terrorism law as well as amendments to the Criminal Code" he added. Secretary General noted that the challenge ahead was not only about the changing of laws but was also to raise the awareness of those who interpret the laws. "Politicians should accept that their words and actions are open to a higher degree of scrutiny by both journalists and the public at large," Jagland insisted, referring to defamation cases that can have "a chilling effect" on freedom of expression and media.

In his opening speech, Minister of Justice, Mr Sadullah Ergin said that the Turkish government is working hard to achieve greater freedom of expression despite setbacks. The government is determined to strengthen democracy and human rights and freedoms, Ergin said. Highlighting the legislative amendments introduced so far to expand the boundaries of freedom of expression, Ergin said that the Fourth reform package, which includes several amendments to laws related to freedom of expression, will soon be brought to Parliament. Mr Ergin was followed by speeches of the presidents the Council of State, the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court. Presidents of High Courts highlighted that judges and prosecutors are expected to apply the case-law of the European Court at domestic level.

Fifteen speakers from the Department for the Execution of Judgments, the European Court of Human Rights, the Turkish Parliament, academics from Turkey and other European countries, journalists, lawyers, judges and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Ms Dunja Mijatovic, addressed the audience during the plenary sessions. Approximately 500 participants, including Ambassadors from various European countries, members of Turkish Parliament, high level Representatives from Ministry of Justice and other Ministries, Judge-Members of Turkish High Courts, Members of Bar Associations, Lawyers, Journalists and NGO representatives attended the conference.

The High Level Conference was organised within the context of the project Freedom of Expression and Media in Turkey which is being implemented by the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Opening speech by Thorbjrn Jagland

Programme of the conference

Pictures from the Conference

Opening video :