Turkey moves away from rule of law principle

Turkey suffers the consequences of diminished security, prosperity, and freedom.

The connection between the judiciary and the rule of law has deteriorated. Regrettably, Turkey seems unable to alter its trajectory in any era, paying the price through the loss of security, prosperity, and freedom.

The year 2023...

T24 columnist and journalist Tolga Sardan was detained on October 31 as part of an investigation initiated ex officio by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office following his article titled "What's in the 'judicial report' submitted by MIT to the Presidency?".

Sardan's testimony was taken at the Ankara Courthouse via the SEGBİS system, and he was referred to the Criminal Court of Peace with a request for arrest.

Sardan was arrested on November 1 after his interrogation by a judge.

On November 6, he was released.


Who is the judge from the Criminal Court who made the arrest, on what grounds, and by what method did he execute the arrest?

What is the legal explanation for arresting someone who will be released in five days?

Why is it so easy to arrest journalists?

Is arrest a method of intimidation, deterrence, and punishment?


Turkey has never been a genuine rule of law.

Now, it has wholly severed its relationship with the law. The bridge between the judiciary and the law has collapsed.

The latest example is the case of Tolga Sardan.

We have come here from a path where "judges" who ignored the Constitution were appointed Supreme Court of Appeals members.


So, what is a genuine rule of law?

Let me give you that from a news article that appeared in the world media on the day of Tolga Sardan's release:

"For the first time in France's Fifth Republic history, the sitting Justice Minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti, is facing trial while still in office.

He appeared before a judge on charges of conflict of interest and abuse of office."

The rule of law means that everyone proven guilty of a crime is imprisoned, and innocent lives are "untouchable" under the guarantee of justice.


Indeed, we are quite a distance away from implementing these measures.

And because we are already far away, we are rotting.

When we tell the history of the press, we encounter lawlessness in almost every period.

Let's go back 17 years ago... Let's look at the legal landscape in 2006.

"In 2006, there were no attempts to revise the September 12 Constitution, which is Turkey's primary impediment to freedom of expression.

The AKP (Justice and Development Party) government rolled back some of the progress on freedom of expression during the EU harmonization process by introducing changes to the Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law."


"In 2006, 82 writers, publishers, and journalists 'ended up' in court.

The infamous Article 301, which criminalizes "insulting Turkishness," has resulted in the prosecution of 69 individuals, including notable figures such as Orhan Pamuk, Hrant Dink, Elif Safak, Rahmi Yildirim, and Eren Keskin.

The European Union calls for amendments to this particular article in the Turkish Penal Code."


The late Orhan Erinc, former President of the Journalists' Association of Turkey, highlighted that the revised Penal Code had introduced harsher penalties, including increased fines and longer prison sentences, and redefined various criminal offenses.

" The amendment further curtails freedom of expression and the rights to access, distribute, critique, interpret, and create artistic works.

When comparing the previous Article 159 with the new Article 301, it is evident that the scope and vagueness of the definition of the offense have been broadened.

However, Press Law No. 5187, which came into effect on June 26, 2004, outlined press freedoms by referring to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and specified the manner and extent to which limitations could be applied.

The ruling and opposition parties drafting this law disregarded these principles in the new Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law.

The legislation essentially equates journalists with terrorists, adopting a stance that they should be tried and punished accordingly."


In 2006, attorney Fikret İlkiz criticized the AKP government for reversing progress towards EU standards on freedom of expression. Amendments to the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law marked this regression. İlkiz pointed out that in Turkey, the criminalization of thought has been a constant; only the specific articles, referred to as "numbers" in the legislation, have changed.

"The repeal of Articles 141, 142, and 163 from the old Penal Code was purported to be a step towards greater freedoms. However, this move was paradoxically coupled with amendments to the Anti-Terror Law. Instead of eliminating these restrictive articles, Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Anti-Terror Law were introduced as their replacements.

As time passed, Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law was eventually repealed. But between its enactment and its repeal, many of Turkey's intellectuals, journalists, and opinion writers were prosecuted in State Security Courts (DGMs) as members of terrorist organizations.

Subsequently, Article 312 of the Penal Code became the tool for stifling dissent, leading to numerous legal challenges within Turkey. Eventually, Article 312 was also abandoned, and attention shifted to applying Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law.

This pattern suggests a prevailing mindset that any expression of free speech that is undesirable or not explicitly permitted must be suppressed by some means. Simply replacing one restrictive article with another has resulted in continued limitations on freedom of expression in Turkey.


In 2006, Noam Chomsky faced legal controversy in Turkey when his book "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media," co-authored with Edward S. Herman, led to charges being brought against him under Articles 301 and 216 of the Turkish Penal Code.


The story remains unchanged.

Unfortunately, Turkey cannot alter its narrative at any point in time.

It suffers the consequences of diminished security, prosperity, and freedom.

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