Press Freedom

MLSA files lawsuit against the circular that bans filming during public demonstrations

Bülent KILIÇ/AFP

Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) Legal Unit filed a lawsuit against the General Directorate of Security circular giving law enforcement legal authority to ban citizens and journalists from audio-visual recording during public demonstrations. In a petition addressed to the Council of State, MLSA demanded the circular to be repealed on the grounds that it has no legal basis. 

The General Directorate of Security issued the concerned circular only a few days before May Day celebrations and defined filming in public spaces as a violation of the privacy of individuals, specifically law enforcement officials. The circular also noted that filming law enforcement personnel while they are on duty prevents them from practicing their profession properly. 

MLSA’s petition to the Council of State notes that the circular is a blow to freedom of expression and press while aiming to further censor journalists’ right to inform and the public’s right to information, which are both secured under the constitution. In the petition, MLSA lawyers pointed out that fundamental rights and liberties can only be restricted by foreseeable and proper legal procedures.

Police officers should not follow this unlawful order

MLSA Co-Director lawyer Veysel Ok affirmed that the circular is an explicit attack on the public’s right to information and press freedom. “No one can annul the Constitution with a circular. Public’s right to information and freedom of expression are protected by the constitution. This circular further violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which secures the right to freedom of expression, as well as the freedom to impart and receive information. Police officers who abide by this circular will be obeying an unlawful order and they will have to prevent journalists from performing their public duty,” noted Ok. 

Calling police officers not to obey this order, Ok stated that they will be the ones who will be held accountable for the unlawful practices made possible by this circular. “Journalists can continue to film during public demonstrations without any concern. We’ve filed a lawsuit against this circular and demanded it to be repealed immediately. Journalists are free to practice their profession,” Ok said. 

What does the circular entail?

The circular, which was issued on April 27 by the General Directorate of Security, claims that filming individuals without getting consent is a violation of privacy and implies illegal processing of personal data. Arguing that filming during public demonstrations have come to a point where it “prevents law enforcement personnel from performing their duty,” the circular further claims that the footage is “published on digital platforms in a way that violates the personal rights of law enforcement personnel and citizens.”

Issued only a few days before May Day, the circular signed by Turkey’s General Director of Public Security Mehmet Aktaş calls security forces “not to allow acts such as taking audio-visual recordings while they are on duty, to prevent individuals who are filming based on the severity of the event or the situation, and if circumstances arise, to take legal action against those who are filming.”