Top judge calls PM’s Twitter criticism ‘emotional reflex’

Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç on Monday said the prime minister had acted on an emotional reflex when he criticized the top court ruling that Turkey’s block on Twitter is a violation of freedom of speech.
Kılıç added that the Constitutional Court will tolerate such emotional reflexes. “The court has made a decision. There may be some reactions to the court’s decision. We will tolerate those reflexes,” Kılıç told reporters on Monday.

On April 2, the Constitutional Court ordered access to be restored, calling the two-week ban a violation of the right to free expression. The Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) waited until April 3 to lift the ban. On April 4, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harshly criticized the Constitutional Court for its ruling, saying he did not respect the decision.

The prime minister said the government was obliged to obey the high court’s ruling, while adding: “But I don’t have to respect it. I do not respect this decision.”

He said the Constitutional Court should have rejected the appeal without hearing it, arguing that the ban should have been challenged in the lower courts first. An administrative court in Ankara had made a ruling against the block on Twitter prior to the March 30 elections.

Twitter was banned in Turkey after Erdoğan expressed his dislike of the microblogging site on March 21. He accused the website of ignoring Turkish court rulings ordering the deletion of several accounts, but it is widely believed that the block was in response to graft allegations that implicated the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. Several Twitter users posted audio recordings related to an investigation into government corruption that became public with police raids and detentions made on Dec. 17, 2013.

Kılıç also said the Constitutional Court had made its decision on Twitter on March 25 and then waited around a week for the Turkish government to comply with the decision of the 15th Ankara Administrative Court, which had issued a stay of execution on the Twitter ban in late March.

“When the decision of the administrative court was not put into effect, the Constitutional Court had to announce its ruling. That ruling was made unanimously. No misinterpretation of the ruling should be made,” the top judge stated.

When asked about the prime minister’s criticism that the Constitutional Court should not have made a ruling, as the ban should have been challenged in the lower courts first, Kılıç defined the top court’s ruling as an “exceptional one.”

“In law, there are some exceptional conditions under which the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] does not wait for the completion of the entire legal process. For instance, if a man who is about to be deported believes that applying to the lower courts might take too much time, then he applies to the Constitutional Court or the ECtHR. In this [Twitter] case, the Constitutional Court is allowed to rule on an issue which concerns people’s right to expression and access to information.”

The top judge also responded to the prime minister’s criticism that the Constitutional Court had ruled against Turkey’s national interests, saying: “A constitutional amendment on fundamental rights and freedoms was made in 2004. The change says that if there is a conflict between our national laws and international laws and conventions, the judicial bodies should consider international laws and conventions as their basis. In cases of conflict, the Constitutional Court applies the requirements of universal law. [Judicial] decisions have no nationality, religion or denomination,” he stated.

Kılıç declined to comment on the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 corruption and bribery operations.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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