Turkish Constitutional Court reached a decision about the application MLSA Co-Director Veysel Ok filed on behalf of his client journalist Deniz Yücel and ruled that Yücel’s rights to personal security and liberty, as well as his right to freedom of expression were violated
Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that Die Welt Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel’s year-long detention had violated his right to personal security and liberty, as well as his right to freedom of expression. Yücel’s application was filed by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Co-Director Veysel Ok.
Deniz Yücel was initially taken into custody about the leaked emails of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who was the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources at the time. Later, the court decided to arrest Yücel on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” for an interview he conducted with PKK executive Cemal Bayık.
Welt correspondent Yücel was released from prison in February 2018 and returned to Germany. The court reached a judgement about Yücel’s individual application two years after it was filed, finding that his rights were violated.
The decision was published in today’s (June 28th, 2019) Official Gazette and noted: “News reporting based on interviews is one of the most important tools of the press’s role in securing public interest. A journalist being indicted for publishing the opinions of another party in the form of an interview could obstruct the press’s contribution to the debate on issues that concern public interest.”
‘An important ruling for journalism’
“The Constitutional Court’s Deniz Yücel decision is a precedent for journalism in Turkey. This is an exemplary decision that will constitute a legal precedent for all other journalists who are either indicted or imprisoned for similar offenses in Turkey,” lawyer Veysel Ok commented on the decision.
Ok stated that many journalists can benefit from this court decision about Deniz Yücel, adding: “Journalists who are behind bars for expressing opinions or asking questions about the Kurdish issue and the Armenian Genocide must be released now.”
Lawyer Ok noted that this decision of Turkey’s top court confirms that interviewing an organization’s leader or criticizing Erdoğan cannot be grounds for prosecution: “For instance, in this decision the court says that the Armenian genocide is discussed on an international level. It is stated that interviewing Cemil Bayık and asking questions about the nature of the coup attempt can’t constitute a crime in any way.”
Court: ‘Interview with Bayık is journalistic activity’
The Court stated that they were not convinced by the allegations that journalist Yücel seemed to be approving of the interviewee’s opinions and that he asked questions in a way that would lead to terrorist propaganda.
The ruling insists that articles that were presented as evidence in Yücel’s arrest warrant should be evaluated as political criticism, which are thus protected under freedom of expression, stating that these articles cannot be used as strong evidence of a committed crime.
The court also ruled to pay Yücel 25,000 Turkish Liras in reparations (approximately 3,800 Euros) for his unlawful detainment. Journalist Deniz Yücel released a statement about this decision on his Twitter account, stating that although this was a positive decision, justice has not been served: “Justice has not been done by the Constitutional Court finding my detention unlawful. Justice delayed is justice denied. Compensation for a year stolen from me and my loved ones is not 25 thousand liras, it cannot even be a thousand times more than that.” Yücel also mentioned that he would be accepting this payment and donate it to Ali İsmail Korkmaz Foundation and several journalism institutes.
Click here for the full text of the Constitutional Court’s judgement in Turkish.