Turkey’s Constitutional Court rules access bans on 500 web pages violate rights

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) ruled “violation of freedom of expression” in more than 500 applications against online access blocking and content removal decisions. These decisions were based on a 2017 law that has been criticized for its use in cracking down on online media.

Duvar English

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) on Nov. 22, 2023 ruled “violation of freedom of expression” in applications against more than 500 online access blocking and content removal decisions, according to the reporting of online news outlet Diken.

Some 118 of these applications belonged to the Diken while the high court also investigated all cases based on a pilot decision on Diken’s previous application in 2018.

Article 9 of Law No. 5651 titled "Law on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed Through These Publications," enacted in 2017, has been frequently utilized by Turkish courts to issue access blocking and content removal orders.

Critics argued that this law was created to curb online media content, allowing orders to be issued for any news or social media post.

Diken and Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD) in 2018 filed an individual application on the violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press by the article in question, and the AYM in 2021 found the application justified and issued a pilot decision.

The AYM stated that the violations of rights based on the article stemmed from structural problems and ruled that the “pilot judgment procedure” be applied for the next applications. The top court decided that that “the arbitrariness be notified to the Parliament to eliminate the structural problem.”

Taking this pilot judgment as a reference, the top court ruled that the access ban on more than 500 pieces of content “violated freedom of expression.”

Yaman Akdeniz from İFÖD stated on X that more than 350 of the applications in the decision were made by the association’s legal team, some of which date back to 2014.

Akdeniz criticized the AYM's decision and stated that the top court did not give a detailed account of the applications that it kept pending for 10 years and did not mention their content.

He stated that the AYM delayed the implementation of its pilot decision for two years and although it canceled Article 9, it left its implementation until Oct. 10, 2024. Therefore, courts will be able to continue to issue similar banning decisions before the local elections on March 31.

AYM issues pilot judgments when it determines that the individual application stems from a structural problem and foresees that the problem will lead to other applications.