The Legal Unit of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) have applied to the Constitutional Court on behalf of the President of the Turkish Journalists Association in Bitlis Sinan Aygül who was arrested on 14 December 2022 over the suspicion of “openly disseminating information misleading the public (Article 217/A of Turkish Penal Code).”
In the application filed on 13 January 2023, Aygül’s lawyers argued that the journalist’s detention under Article 217/A which is widely known in the public as “the Censorship Law” violated his right to personal security and liberty and his freedom of expression.
Arguing that Aygül’s arrest created a chilling effect on journalists, MLSA lawyers also requested that the high court also evaluate their claims for violations of Articles 13 (Restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms) and 14 (Prohibition of abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms).
‘Article 217/A may violate the rights of other citizens’
In the application, the lawyers recalled that Article 217/A caused intense public debate, that it has been added to the Penal Code despite widely shared concern and that the Republican People’s Party (CHP) also brought the article before the Constitutional Court. The lawyers argued that “Article 217/A which was cited as the legal basis for the applicant’s arrests following his tweets, has no legitimate purpose and is not necessary in a democratic society. Furthermore, the article is in contradiction with the principle of legality.”
MLSA lawyers requested the court to take up Aygül’s application immediately on the grounds that “As it is unforeseeable and contradicts the principle of legality, Article 271/A may violate the rights of other citizens who can be accused in a way similar to the applicant.”
On 13 December 2022, journalist Sinan Aygül shared allegations of a 14 year old child being sexually assaulted. Shortly after his initial tweet, Aygül tweeted that the governor who looked into the issue after Aygül’s report informed him that none of the suspects are law enforcement officers. Aygül also stated that he will continue investigating the allegations.
Three hours after his last tweet, Aygül was taken into police custody in connection with a criminal investigation launched by the Tatvan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over the suspicion of “inciting the public to hatred and hostility.” On 14 December 2022, Aygül was arrested over the suspicion of “openly disseminating information misleading the public (Article 217/A of Turkish Penal Code).” After being held in pre-trial detention for eights, Aygül was released on 22 December 2022 with an international travel ban imposed upon him.
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