Court allows convicted rapist to exercise ‘right to be forgotten,’ bans news about his case

Recep Çakır

A Turkish court last week granted the request of Recep Çakır, a national wrestler who was sentenced to 23 years, six months’ imprisonment in 2012 for raping a 23-year-old woman, to exercise the “right to be forgotten” and ruled to remove news about his case from Internet sites, including those of national newspapers, Bianet reported.

Speaking about the decision, human rights lawyer Dr. Kerem Altıparmak said the “right to be forgotten” can be used to protect privacy in the event of a conflict between the right to privacy and freedom of expression. Yet, according to Altıparmak, in cases such as rape the right cannot be exercised due to the public interest.

“The right to be forgotten is not something that can be enjoyed in all cases, and there is nothing to be forgotten in this case,” said Altıparmak. “The incident took place in the recent past. The public still needs to know about it, and there is a public interest in giving the people who interact with him the opportunity to protect themselves. … If the person had been acquitted, then we would be having a very different discussion.”

The court’s decision came following the passage of new legislation regulating social media, which also included a provision on the “right to be forgotten.” The new law, which went into effect on July 31, was harshly criticized by human rights defenders in Turkey and abroad. In a statement the spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell had said that it would further undermine the right of people in Turkey to freedom of expression, to obtain information and to participate in public and political life.

According to Altıparmak, this development is not surprising and, as experts, they had foreseen the risk of such complications while the bill was being debated in parliament. “The bill was so rushed that it wasn’t even possible to discuss what its provisions could lead to,” he said.

The new social media law obligates social media platforms to respond within 48 hours to complaints about “violations of personal rights” or to judicial orders to remove content. The social network provider that fails to remove offending content within 24 hours after a court ruling will be held responsible for damages incurred by the content.

The law also sets forth progressive sanctions forcing social media platforms with more than 1 million connections a day to appoint a representative in Turkey with whom the Turkish authorities can resolve problems arising from cases of insult, intimidation and violation of privacy.

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