My comment: Constitutional Court takes the stage

Make no mistake about it: If Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s perceived victory leads to a further appetite for power and stronger attempts to subordinate the judiciary to the executive branch, he now has a formidable adversary who has already entered the scene.
From March 31, the battle of wills will be between the seemingly invincible Erdoğan and the Constitutional Court and its chief judge, Haşim Kılıç.

The turning point was the decision to lift the Twitter ban that had put Erdoğan’s Turkey into the corner of international shame. The court’s ruling, unanimously agreed on by the judges, caused deep dismay in the Justice and Development Party (AKP), from the top down.

Now the court also has to decide on the YouTube ban, which many think should already have been lifted, since they believe the Twitter ruling has set a pro-freedom precedent. But the new Internet regulations ratified by President Abdullah Gül have extended the powers of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to the extent that they increase the tensions.

Erdoğan has, in his usual style, challenged the Twitter ruling and made no secret about the fact that he detests it.

He said the government was obliged to obey the high court’s ruling, while adding, “But I do not respect this decision.”

The reaction to him came in a harsher than usual tone — somewhat matching Erdoğan’s choice of words — from Kılıç himself.

“The court has made a decision. There may be some reactions to the court’s decision. We will tolerate those reflexes,” he told reporters on Monday.

“That ruling was made unanimously. No misinterpretation of the ruling should be made,” the top judge stated.

Then came the sharpest remark; Kılıç defined the top court’s ruling as an “exceptional one,” and added two points.

First: “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. 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.”

Second: “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 treaties, the judicial bodies should consider the latter 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, apparently referring to Article 90 of the Constitution, which by now is very seldom referred to.

Erdoğan is now fully aware of where the challenge is coming from. On Sunday, he assembled around 20 top editors and columnists entirely selected from pro-government media to hold — in an oxymoronic manner — “a meeting closed to the press,” and then he launched a counter-attack.

“I could not agree even with my friends on Twitter,” he told the media figures in the meeting. “They said ‘freedom.’ It is not. It is commerce. Because they are all private companies, marketing their products. The Constitutional Court turned the legal order upside down with this ruling. This makes one wonder whether there is even a parallel structure there as well. The USA has also run to their defense,” said Erdoğan.

“These conspiracies did not begin on Dec. 17, [2013],” he went on. “Before that, the Gezi [Park] actions and before that a formation that took place inside the judiciary after the referendum … But they are not like that, so whoever they are and whatever they do is under scrutiny.”

In Parliament yesterday, he raised the stakes even further, accusing the Constitutional Court of neglecting the real issues in order to make a hasty decision about “internationals,” adding that it is serving Twitter and YouTube.

So, now that the formidable foe has been chosen by Erdoğan, welcome to the second round of the elections trilogy. As the witch hunt and harassment of the Hizmet movement continues, these harsh statements will lead to an immense demonization of Kılıç and his 16 colleagues at the Court, and the pro-government media will launch campaigns to discredit what seems to be the last independent stronghold of justice in Turkey.


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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