Ministry challenges top court stay on regulation banning recordings at protests

AFP/Bulent KILIC

Turkey’s Interior Ministry and Security General Directorate have challenged a recent decision by the country’s top administrative court, which ruled for a stay of execution of a controversial police regulation prohibiting people from recording videos while law enforcement is carrying out its duties at public events, Turkish Minute reported.

The regulation was issued by the Security General Directorate in April ordering police officers to stop people from recording videos while law enforcement is doing it job.

The Council of State in its decision dated Sept. 15 ruled that the regulation violated freedom of the press and the right to communicate, adding that fundamental rights and freedoms can only be restricted through laws and hence the regulation does not comply with the country’s constitution.

The court has not yet ruled to cancel the regulation, but it will not be implemented based on the court’s decision, which was made public on Nov. 11.

The Interior Ministry and the Security General Directorate petitioned the Council of State in mid-December objecting to its decision for a stay on the regulation although Interior Ministry Süleyman Soylu had welcomed the court’s decision, saying the situation pointed out by the court regarding fundamental rights and freedoms was correct, Birgün said.

In their petitions the ministry and the Security General Directorate claimed that filming public events while law enforcement is at work violates the right to privacy on the part of the police officers, prevents them from carrying out their duties and makes them a target of possible attacks.

The regulation, dated April 27 and signed by national police chief Mehmet Aktaş, led to widespread criticism among journalists, opposition parties and rights activists, with many fearing it could lead to increased human rights violations in a country that already has a poor record in rights violations.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had said the move could lead to increased police brutality and amounted to “authoritarianism at its finest.”

In early May, the Ankara Bar Association filed a petition at the Council of State against the regulation, demanding its cancellation.

According to Human Rights Watch, there has been a marked resurgence of police torture and ill-treatment in Turkey over the past five years and since a coup attempt in 2016 in particular. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them has resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces. The rights watchdog’s Europe and Central Asia director, Hugh Williamson, said, “Turkey has an entrenched culture of impunity when it comes to abuses by the security forces, no matter how serious.”

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