Constitutional Court: Fine Imposed on Journalist over Article Violated Freedom of Expression

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  • December 12, 2019
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Journalist and writer Tusalp was sentenced to pay a fine in 2014 upon a complaint by Fethullah Gulen.

The Constitutional Court has decided that a monetary fine imposed on journalist and writer Erbil Tusalp over an article violated his freedom of expression.

Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is held responsible for the 2016 coup attempt, had filed a complaint against the article that was published in 2013.

The top court decision said the article was about "topics that are related to public interest" and the expressions in the article were not about Gulen's "private space."

'Courts didn't consider public interest'

"When the points made in a period when the complainant, who is the manager of the FETO/PYD [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure], was intensely discussed in the public were considered together with other cases, [it is seen that] the mentioned article has the characteristics of criticism," the court decision said.

The top court noted that the lower courts did not maintain a fair balance between freedom of expression, the interests of the public and the interests of the complainant. Points such as "the nature of the article's contribution to public debate, the complainant being a well-known person by the public, and the right of the public to obtain information" were not considered by the lower courts, it further noted.

"It has not been shown with a relevant and sufficient reason that the interference with the applicant's freedom of expression corresponded to a compulsory public need for the protection of the reputation and rights of others. For this reason, it was concluded that the intervention was not an intervention in accordance with the requirements of the democratic social order."

What did the article say?

Tusalp's article published on November 26, 2013, in the daily Sol defined Gulen as "a retired preacher who is occupied with opening schools in areas of American interest and collecting information for American intelligence services," and said that he is called "a money grubber, evil, perverted, and a vigilant masochist."

Upon Gulen's complaint, Istanbul Anadolu 2nd Penal Court of First Instance sentenced Tusalp to pay an administrative fine of 1,740 lira (300 US dollars as of December 12, 2019) on December 11, 2014. It deferred the announcement of the sentence. The court said the article included "insults."

The Constitutional court ruled that Tusalp shall be paid 1,740 lira for non-pecuniary damages and the case shall be retried.

Source: English Bianet