‘Exaggerated and Provocative Statements Fall Within Freedom of Expression’

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  • November 12, 2019
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Announcing its ruling on a libel suit filed by one journalist against another, the Constitutional Court has concluded that freedom of expression should be interpreted so broadly to allow exaggeration and even provocation to a degree.

The Constitutional Court has announced its ruling on the judicial fine imposed on journalist Meric Senyuz for having insulted journalist Asli Aydintasbas with an article that he penned in 2012. The Court has concluded that the freedom of expression of Meric Senyuz has been violated.

In its ruling, the Court has underlined that "the persons known by the public have to bear more criticisms" and stated the following in brief:

"The article is a critical writing against a member of the press. The member of the press criticized in the article is a person who presents a program at a national TV channel, a columnist for a local newspaper and, thus, known by the public. Hence, the press member in question has to show more tolerance towards criticisms against herself when compared with other citizens."

Finding the title of the article "exaggerated, provocative and striking", the Constitutional Court has emphasized that when the article is evaluated as a whole, it was penned within the scope of freedom of expression.

"It needs to be remembered that freedom of expression is to be interpreted so broadly to allow exaggeration and even provocation to a degree", the Constitutional Court has indicated further.

Expression in the title not mentioned in content

Journalist Meric Senyuz, a columnist for daily Yurt at the time, penned an article entitled "Is she a journalist or the rose of the CIA and al-Qaeda" on December 20, 2012. In his article published on the Yurt, Senyuz posed a series of criticisms against journalist Asli Aydintasbas due to her statements about the war in Syria on a TV program.

Referring to the journalist with her initials, Senyuz wrote, "A.A. has declared jihadists as 'revolutionaries'. One of the most pro-American columnists of the big media, A.A. has declared jihadist murderers in Syria as revolutionaries."

Journalist Aydintasbas filed a criminal complaint against Senyuz on the ground that he insulted her with the above article. The Istanbul 2nd Penal Court of First Instance filed a lawsuit against Senyuz.

The court announced its verdict on November 28, 2013 and ruled that Senyuz should pay a judicial fine on charge of "insult". At first, the court suspended the announcement of the verdict.

In its detailed ruling, the local court indicated that the article in question "led to the perception that Asli Aydintasbas had links to the CIA and al-Qaeda" and concluded that the expression in question harmed the honor and reputation of the complainant.

As Senyuz was previously penalized in another lawsuit, the court overturned the suspension of the announcement of the verdict and ruled that he should pay the fine without any suspension or determent. When the ruling became definite, Senyuz made an individual application to the Constitutional Court.

In the justified ruling of the Constitutional Court published on the Official Gazette today (November 12), it has been indicated that the title of the article and its content do not overlap and the expression used in the title is not mentioned in the rest of the article.

Senyuz to be paid non-pecuniary damages

The Constitutional Court has concluded that the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Article 26/1 of the Constitution and freedom of press guaranteed by the Article 28/1 of the Constitution have been violated.

The Court has ruled that the file of the case shall be remitted to the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court of First Instance for retrial and that Senyuz shall be paid 9,150 Turkish Lira (TRY) in non-pecuniary damages.

Source: English Bianet