Free SpeechPress Freedom

Council of State suspends the execution of the circular that bans audio-visual recording of protests

The Council of State issued a suspension of execution decision in the lawsuit filed by the Media and Law Studies Association against the General Directorate of Security circular from April 27 that bans audio-visual recordings during public demonstrations. 

In the decision served on December 15, it is stated that after reviewing the case filed on behalf of journalist Barış Altıntaş and the statements submitted by the defendant parties, the 10th Chamber of the Council of State determined that the circular imposes restrictions on freedoms of information and press. Stating that restrictions upon fundamental freedoms can only be imposed in cases that are predictable by law and by the legislative body, the court ruled for the suspension of execution of the circular, on the grounds that it violates articles 7 and 13 of the Turkish Constitution.

On May 5, 2021, MLSA filed a lawsuit against the circular, which drew significant negative reaction from rights defenders and activists and was published on the eve of May 1, Labor Day. 

The General Directorate of Security and the Ministry of Interior had submitted their identical defenses to the 10th Chamber of the Council of State on August 16. There, they defined the circular as an “in-house instruction” that explains already existing legal powers of law enforcement, hence, concerns only the personnel of relevant institutions. In that respect, they claimed that a journalist could not be a party to such a lawsuit. However, every administrative action taken by law enforcement officers as per the circular directly affects all citizens, which means that it results in a “general regulatory action” in practice.

The petition penned by MLSA lawyers stated that the circular interfered with freedoms of press and expression, and emphasized that this kind of practice amounted to censorship in freedoms to inform and be informed, which are protected by the Constitution.

Reminding that the Ministry of Interior and the General Directorate of Security had argued that a journalist did not have the capacity to sue the circular, MLSA Co-director lawyer Veysel Ok said: “The court determined that a journalist has the capacity to file a lawsuit against the circular. Therefore the suspension of execution decision is very significant from the viewpoint of journalism. We hope that this circular will be annulled as a result of the reviewing of the merits of the case.”