Turkish court bans access to stories on rapist national wrestler, cites 'right to be forgotten'

An Antalya court has banned access to reports on former national wrestler Recep Çakır, who was sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison in 2012 on charges of raping a 23-year-old woman. The court said that the convict has a "right to be forgotten," whereas experts have pointed that this legal case concerns the public closely due to its nature and therefore its media coverage is crucial.

Duvar English

A court in the southern province of Antalya has banned access to several reports on former national wrestler Recep Çakır's sexual assault against a woman, saying the convict has a “right to be forgotten.” The court's decision came upon the convict's demand in this regard.

Antalya's Korkuteli Criminal Court of Peace said in its ruling that the Constitutional Court “gives everyone the right to open a new page, by having others prevent what they experienced in the past,” Diken online news portal said on Aug. 19.

Some 28 links, including those of some newspapers, blogs and Ekşisözlük, were included in the court's Aug. 13-dated decision.

Cyber rights expert Yaman Akdeniz told Diken that the court has not taken “freedom of press or overriding public interest” into account while giving this decision.

“This is not a simple demand such as banning access to an ordinary citizen's traffic ticket received 15 years ago or someone's drunken photo who had it taken as a student and was put on social media,” Akdeniz said.

He said that this is a legal case which “concerns the public closely” and therefore “the media's right to make news and the public's right to receive news should have been protected.”

Çakır received a prison sentence of 22 years and six months in 2012 on charges of raping a 23-year-old woman in Antalya, according to Turkish media outlets. The story was written by many newspapers at the time, including pro-government dailies such as Sabah, Hürriyet, Takvim and Şafak.

In July, Turkish parliament passed a controversial bill that gives the government greater control on social media. The new law, supported by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has led to concerns about freedom of expression in the country.

“Does a rapist have a right to be forgotten? According to Korkuteli Criminal Court of Peace, Recep Çakır has such a right on the grounds of 'opening a new page' in his life. See how the new law is being used,” Akdeniz wrote on Twitter on Aug. 18.