Turkey’s Constitutional Court has said in a recent ruling that the Islamist pro-government newspaper Yeni Akit’s referring to actor Müjdat Gezen as “pimp” (“pezevenk” in Turkish) is within the limits of “the freedom of press and expression.”
The top court thereby lifted a symbolic fine of 3 kurus previously imposed on the newspaper for its remark against the actor.
The newspaper’s controversial remark came after Gezen in 2015 participated in a television program called Public Arena (“Halk Arenası” in Turkish) hosted by veteran journalist Uğur Dündar on the channel Halk TV. Gezen was at the time facing accusations from religious groups that he “was disrespecting the Azan [call to prayer].” During the TV program, Gezen answered these accusations against him.
After the program was aired, Yeni Akit issued a report lashing out at Gezen and calling him “pimp.” The newspaper also used harsh words against Prof. Dr. Yaşar Nuri Öztürk, another guest of the program who is a reformist theologian. The newspaper’s report referred to Öztürk as “foul-mouthed.”
“’Pimp’ Müjdat Gezen and ‘foul-mouthed’ Yaşar Nuri Öztürk, who have participated in the program’s this week episode, have sworn like troopers on the live show, and citizens have harshly reacted against this impertinence,” said the newspaper.
Following the report, Gezen lodged a compensation claim for spiritual damages in the amount of a symbolic fine of 3 kurus. Following a lawsuit process, the Istanbul 2nd Bakırköy Civil Court of First Instance ruled in favor of Gezen.
Yeni Akit later took the issue to the Constitutional Court, indicating that it had used the phrase of “pimp” in quotation marks, which it said was a “journalism technique.”
The top court in its ruling referred to the Article 26 and 28 of the Constitution, which establishes freedom of expression and freedom of the press respectively, and said the local court’s ruling was an intervention against the press.
The top court also said that the roughness in the language used by Yeni Akit was merely “criticism.”
“When the unity of the news report is considered, it cannot be said that Yeni Akit has targeted [Gezen] in a direct and arbitrary way,” the top court said. “It should be accepted that the rough language [of the newspaper] stems from Gezen’s own behaviors.”