JUDGEMENT ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN ERGUN POYRAZ’S APPLICATION
(Click for full text of judgment)
1. The Constitutional Court held in its judgement on individual application of Ergun Poyraz (App. No: 2013/8503) that freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 26 of the Constitution was violated
The applicant was sentenced to pay a compensation of 15.000 TL to the claimant for his statements in his book titled “Musa’nın Gülü”.
The applicant claimed that his statements in the book subject to the case are consistent with the apparent truth and that he was punished for the opinions he expressed. Accordingly, he alleged that, along with his some other rights, his freedom of expression has been violated.
The Court's Assessment
The Constitutional Court reviewed the case from the point of whether the compensation the applicant had been required to pay was a necessary, legitimate and proportionate interference to his freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court emphasized that all means of expression are under constitutional guarantee and that the Constitution brings no limitation on the contents aspect of the freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court expressed that categorizing an expressed or disseminated opinion as “worthy-worthless” or “useful-useless” on the basis of its content may lead to an arbitrary limitation of this freedom.
The Constitutional Court noted that no limitation shall be imposed on the political expressions unless there are compelling reasons. The Court emphasized that, in a healthy democracy, the political power shall be controlled by not only the legislative and judiciary organs but the other actors in the political sphere as well. The Constitutional Court noted that the politicians, unlike other persons, open their each and every act to scrutiny deliberately and, therefore, they must show broader tolerance to criticisms. The Court emphasized that the politicians’ such obligation of “broader tolerance” does not mean that their “reputation and rights” under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Constitution is not protected.
The Constitutional Court noted that the allegations in the book in their entirety may be qualified to constitute and attack on the claimant’s honor and reputation only if the words used in the book and the picture on the cover of the book are ascribed a different meaning which is beyond from assigned by the author himself. The Court considered that the author’s analysis on the life, relations and statements of Abdullah Gül, who is one of the most important political actors of the country and was the minister of foreign affairs and a presidential candidate on the publishing date of the book, is an issue related to public interest in general terms.
The Constitutional Court noted that punishing the informative statements and criticisms against the politicians may have a “chilling effect” and lead to silence different voices in the society and the fright of being punished may prevent the maintenance of a pluralistic society. The Court stated that the court judgment which requires the applicant to pay the compensation in the present case may harm the environment of criticism which is a sine qua non for a democratic society.
Consequently, the Constitutional Court ruled that the applicant’s freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 26 of the Constitution has been violated as the interference in the applicant’s freedom of expression does not meet the criteria of being necessary for the protection of “the others’ reputation and rights” in a democratic society.
This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.