Press Freedom

MLSA files a lawsuit against the Presidency’s ‘censorship circular’

The Legal Team of Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) filed a lawsuit against the Presidential circular titled “Press and Publishing Activities” published in the Official Gazette on January 29, 2022. In a petition addressed to the Council of State, MLSA demanded that the circular be repealed on the grounds that the Circular aims to restrict the fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and gives way to illegitimate interference with the freedoms of press and expression beyond the limits specified in the Constitution and the international conventions to which Turkey is a party.

In the petition, the Article 13th of the Constitution was referred to and it was highlighted that fundamental rights and liberties can only be restricted by law and under specific conditions which have also been set by the Constitution. In the petition, it was stated that considering the content and the aim of the circular, it moves beyond the confines of being a regulating administrative action.

The MLSA Legal Team also called attention to the language employed in the circular arguing that it contains “vague terms.” In the petition it was stated that the pejorative language of the circular leaves several things in the dark. For instance, it is not clear whom or which institutions are accused of “conducting open and covert operations to undermine familial and societal values” or what is meant by “the fundamental values of the society” or what are the criteria which will necessitate “measures” to be taken. In the same manner, it was stated that the emphasis on “the spin-offs of foreign productions” in the circular is in clear violation of the international conventions to which Turkey is a party. It was argued that in this way, the circular gives way to disproportionate and arbitrary interference with the freedoms of press and expression and it was demanded that its execution be immediately suspended and that the circular be repealed.

‘Rights and liberties cannot be curtailed by a circular’

Arguing that the circular is more of a political text than a judicial one, MLSA’s Co-Director lawyer Veysel Ok stated that “Rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and international treaties cannot be curtailed by a circular.” Reminding the circular issued by the General Directorate of Security circular giving law enforcement the authority to ban citizens and journalists from audio-visual recording during public demonstrations, Ok stated that “Just like that circular, this one has no legal basis either. However, it will have ramifications in practice as it will mean more pressure, investigations and punishments including closure targeting independent media.”