High Court finds rights violations in advertising bans on opposition newspapers

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that advertising bans imposed on BirGün, Sözcü, Cumhuriyet and Evrensel, all newspapers critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, violated their freedom of speech rights. freedom of the press, Turkish Minute reported, citing Deutsche Welle Turkish Service.

The Turkish Press Advertising Agency (BİK), the state agency responsible for regulating publicly funded advertisements in the media, imposed advertising bans on the four dailies over 13 columns and articles in news they had published.

Although the newspapers sued these penalties in the lower courts, the lawsuits were unsuccessful. The daily newspapers then filed individual petitions before the Constitutional Court.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the bans imposed by BİK violated the newspapers’ right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, also ordering new legal proceedings for the reversal of the decisions that caused the violation and the government to pay each of the newspapers 10,000 TL. ($557) in damages.

Noting that BİK issued a total of 39 days of advertising bans in 2018, 143 days in 2019 and 572 days in 2020, the court said in its decision that the authority given to the institution exceeded the target of control of the ethics of the press and had turned into “a tool of punishment” which can have a deterrent effect on certain members of the press, a situation which causes a “systematic problem”.

The Constitutional Court suggested that Parliament pass legislation to address the issue.

The design of a framework of the conditions of Article 49 of Law No. 195 on the establishment of the press advertising agency regarding the prohibitions on public advertisements and the restructuring of the article in terms of material with expressions of clarity and certainty were among the court’s suggestions. .

Last month, BİK amended the press code of ethics, adding vague and abstract language that is feared to contribute to increased media censorship in the country. The changes to the principles in Article 49 came 28 years after they were first defined in 1994.

BİK was established in 1961. In 2013, its structure was changed to allow it to impose advertising bans for violations of its regulations. It has a general assembly made up of members appointed by government, the media industry and civil society.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90% of national media in Turkey, ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, are owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line. .

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