Press Freedom

Rights of journalists covering Election Day: What you should know

This document was prepared by lawyers from the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) to provide information on the rights of all members of the press working on the ground during the upcoming presidential and 28th parliamentary elections.

Main legislation and rules

The Turkish Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. However, in order to ensure a fair and impartial election process, some restrictions are imposed on the activities of the press.

The Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) sets the rules for press activities during the election process.

The laws applicable to this process include the Law on Basic Provisions of Elections and Voter Registers, the Law on Parliamentary Elections, and the Law on Presidential Elections.

Articles 28 et seq. of the Constitution guarantee freedom of the press. Some restrictions on the activities of the press have been imposed in order to ensure an honest and fair electoral process. However, there are limits to those restrictions. 

Article 79 of the Constitution entrusts the Supreme Electoral Council with the duty and authority to carry out all procedures related to the orderly conduct and integrity of the elections, and to investigate and resolve all irregularities, complaints and objections related to electoral matters during and after the elections.

In addition, according to Article 30 of Law No. 6112 on the Establishment and Broadcasting Services of Radio and Television Companies, the procedures and principles of broadcasting during elections are regulated by the Supreme Electoral Board.

Legislation governing the conduct of elections — Law No. 298 on the Basic Provisions of Elections and Voter Registers, Law No. 2839 on Parliamentary Elections and Law No. 6271 on Presidential Elections — stand out as the most important laws that constitute the legislation. 

Law No. 298 on Basic Provisions on Elections and Voter Registers lists the regulations on press activities during the election process as follows:

Prohibitions and hours on election day

Under Article 55/B, during the ten-day period preceding the election day, it is prohibited to publish and disseminate in any form through written, oral and visual press and broadcast media, under the name of public opinion polls, surveys, forecasts, mini-referendums through information and communication telephones, in favor of or against a political party or candidate, or in any way to influence the votes of citizens.

According to Article 80, it is forbidden for radios and all kinds of broadcasting organs to broadcast news, predictions and comments on elections and election results until 6:00 p.m. on election day.

  • Between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., only the news and communiqués issued by the Supreme Electoral Council regarding the election may be broadcast on the radio.
  • After 21:00, all broadcasts are free.
  • Pursuant to Article 82, members of the press are allowed to obtain images and information for news purposes in the vicinity of polling stations, provided that they do not interfere with polling procedures.
  • According to article 81 of the same law, a polling station is the room, section or place created for this purpose, where the ballot box is placed and where the electoral committee works.
  • Article 151 stipulates that those who publish “unfounded” news after 6 p.m. on the day before the election will be sentenced to imprisonment for between three months and one year.

In the decisions of the Supreme Electoral Council dated 15.03.2023 and numbered 2023/123 and 2023/124, the following decisions were made regarding the press and propaganda activities for the upcoming elections:

  • Campaigning through the press and means of communication may be carried out until Saturday, May 13, at 6:00 p.m., and until Saturday, May 27, at 6:00 p.m., if the election goes to the second round.
  • Within ten days prior to the election day, written, oral and communication propaganda may be conducted from Thursday, May 4, 2023 until Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 6:00 p.m., and in case the election goes to the second round, from Friday, May 19, 2023 until Saturday, May 27, 2023 at 6:00 p.m., when the final results of the first round are announced by the Supreme Electoral Council. 
  • Until Saturday, May 27, 2023, 6:00 p.m.,it is forbidden to broadcast and distribute in any written, oral and visual broadcast under the names of public opinion polls, surveys, forecasts, mini-referendum through information and communication telephones, in favor of or against a political party or candidate or in any way to influence the votes of citizens.

IMPORTANT! Obstructing the professional activities of journalists for reasons such as press cards, accreditation, security, or election secrecy is obstructing the performance of public duty and constitutes a crime under the Turkish Penal Code.

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