Turkey’s top court annuls state of emergency decree that closed down media outlets

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has canceled an article of a government decree issued in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 that led to the closure of dozens of media organizations in the country, Turkish Minute reported.

With the decree the Turkish government closed down more than 100 media organizations including newspapers, news agencies, TV and radio stations, publishing houses and magazines and seized their properties on the grounds that they posed a threat to national security.

In response to a parliamentary motion in 2018, the government disclosed that 116 media outlets — six news agencies, 18 television stations, 22 radio stations, 50 newspapers and 20 magazines — were shut down by emergency decrees (KHKs) issued during a state of emergency declared after the failed coup.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) took the relevant article of the controversial decree to the top court, demanding its cancellation on the grounds that it violates the Turkish Constitution. The top court ruled for the cancellation of the article, finding that it contravened the country’s constitution.

Most of the media organizations closed down in the aftermath of the coup attempt were those affiliated with the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the abortive putsch, although the movement strongly denies any involvement. Many left-wing and Kurdish media outlets were also shuttered by the government following the failed coup.

According to lawyer Kerem Altıparmak, who spoke to the gazeteduvar news website, the Constitutional Court’s decision may lead to positive legal consequences for more than 10 media outlets that were not directly closed by government decrees such as İMC TV, Hayatın Sesi TV, Zarok TV and Jiyan TV.

Altıparmak said the court’s decision will, however, not have any effect on the media organizations which were closed down by government decrees that explicitly mentioned their names.

He said a state of emergency commission (OHAL), set up by the Turkish government in 2017 to look into complaints from individuals who were adversely affected by government decrees during the state of emergency, can decide the fate of media organizations that were specifically closed down by government decrees.

According to Altıparmak, media organizations whose names were not directly mentioned in a government decree but were shuttered by a prime ministry commission based on the government decree can benefit from the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

The lawyer said these media organizations, some of which already have cases pending at administrative courts, may ask the courts to allow them to reopen based on the top court ruling and could seek compensation for the damages they suffered due to closure.

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