News Portals Shutdown by the State Regulator

Update: 08 Aug 2016 No state reply yet
Year 18 Jul 2016 Country Turkey Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , Article 19 , AEJ , Index Alert level Level 2
18 Jul 2016 Turkey Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , Article 19 , AEJ , Index Level 2
No state reply yet

In the last 72 hours, following the attempted coup in Turkey, on 15 July 2016, the Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK, the State regulator) has shut down 20 independent online news portals, including Haberdar, Meydan, Medyascope, Gazeteport, Rotahaber, ABC, Karşı, etc. Visitors to these online news sites are faced with the following message: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the law Nr. 5651, administration measure has been taken for this website according to decision Nr. Xxxx dated 17/07/2016 of the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication.” The shutdown has been strongly criticized by the Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS).

Updates

08 Aug 2016 : • 04/08: Access to Özgür Gün TV’s is blocked for a second time by the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) • 04/08: The TİB also blocked access to Özgür Gündem’s website for the third time since 26 July • 07/08: The Jin News Agency (JINHA) is closed for the eighth time
27 Jul 2016 : The websites of Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and Özgür Gündem were blocked by order of the Information and Communication Technologies authority (TİB) due to "administrative injunction" on 27 July 2016. Such a blocking is not the first of its kind since DiHA has been blocked 43 times this year and Özgür Gündem twice.

Follow-ups

01 Oct 2017 : The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights recalls that any restrictions on access to Internet content should be based on a clear and predictable framework affording guarantee of judicial oversight to prevent possible abuses.
20 Jul 2016 : Regretting “ that journalists were once more victims of violence, at the hands of coup plotters, as well as of citizens resisting them, and that access to several news media on the internet were blocked once more”, the Commissioner for Human Rights said that he “will be closely monitoring the situation in the coming days”.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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