The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TTB) has applied for the annulment of an order issued by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Official Gazette that would levy punishment on media outlets that “undermine national and moral values" and "disrupt family and social structure.”
TTB said in its application to the Council of State, the country's top administrative court, that the order violated both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which Turkey is privy to by its constitution.
The Presidential order on “Press and Publishing Activities” issued on Jan. 29 requested that censorship and regulatory institutions take steps against press outlets in the interest of “preserving our national culture against alienation and corruption.” The borders of what constitutes a threat were left vague, loosely defined as those things that offend “fundamental values, national and spiritual values, some symbols, social structure, and our national culture.”
This circular has been widely condemned as an attack on the freedom of expression and of the press, both assured by the Turkish Constitution and by the international human rights agreements to which Turkey is a party.
The statement made by TBB regarding their application stated that not only will this ruling censor certain outlets critical of the government, but owing to its vagueness will create self-censorship.
“The instruction given with the circular […] which will result in the restriction of constitutional fundamental rights and freedoms, with statements that do not have a legal certainty, are subjective and open to interpretation, and will undermine the discretion of all public institutions and organizations that apply the relevant legislation,” the statement read.
The organization further stated that the circular gave regulatory institutions - many of them run by allies of the government - the freedom to interpret censorship of media beyond what is allowed in the Turkish Constitution.
This circular is squarely unconstitutional and needs to be canceled, TTB said.