Turkish court censors online content on judicial bribery allegations

A court in İstanbul has ruled to block access to 59 pieces of online content, including news articles, columns, social media posts and videos covering bribery allegations implicating prominent judges, Free Web Turkey reported.

Censored URLs contain allegations that a judge in İstanbul was handing down decisions to block online content in exchange for money and that another judge in the city was accepting bribes for releasing suspects and defendants.

Some of the banned articles contain references to an earlier censorship imposed on the coverage of a letter by İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar addressed to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) that had alleged corruption in the country’s judicial system.

In the letter, dated Oct. 6, Uçar had detailed allegations of bribery, nepotism and other irregularities. He had also included accusations against Bekir Altun, president of the İstanbul Judicial Commission.

The access bans were reportedly imposed at Altun’s request.

Turkey’s authorities regularly impose censorship on online content covering allegations of corruption, bribery, misconduct or nepotism implicating high-ranking government officials or bureaucrats. The courts are often quick to act on such content, banning access the same day they’re published. They also order the removal of the content, ensuring that they disappear from the internet altogether.

To justify this censorship, the courts typically refer to legal principles such as the protection of personal rights and the “right to be forgotten,” despite clear public interest in the nature of the allegations.

Turkey was ranked among “not free” countries concerning online freedoms in the 2022 edition of the Freedom on the Net report published by the US-based Freedom House, 165th among 180 countries in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and 116th among 140 countries in the 2022 Rule of Law Index published by the World Justice Project (WJP).

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