Statement of Turkey

Tacan İLDEM 21.06.2012
Response to the Representative on Freedom of the Media
21 June 2012

Mr. Chairperson,

I join the previous speakers in warmly welcoming Representative Mijatovic back to the Permanent Council and in thanking her for the overview of the developments relating to freedom of the media in the OSCE area. The content of her report will be examined by my authorities with due attention.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Chairmanship for organizing the conference on internet freedom, which indeed provided an important occasion to exchange ideas concerning the freedom of expression online.

The Representative’s report once again shed light on the challenges and outlined the positive developments in the area of freedom of expression and free media. Her interventions on a broad range of issues in many participating States showed once again the complexity of the problems as well as the importance of maintaining a dialogue with her Office in developing solutions to them.

We reaffirm our support for the Representative’s efforts in fulfilling her mandate and we recall that the Representative and her team first-hand witnessed our Government’s sincere willingness and preparedness to further develop our cooperation during her visit in Turkey last December.

Mr Chairperson,

I would like to comment on the question of incarcerated persons who are referred to as “imprisoned journalists” in her report. I would like to recall, as stated before, that the imprisoned or arrested persons in question are charged for their criminal acts, great majority being related to terrorist offences, and not for their journalistic activities. Journalists are granted no criminal immunity in Turkey, as is the case across the whole OSCE region.

This said, let me underline that Turkey and many other participating States are similarly confronted with the strain of striking the right balance between legitimate security concerns such as those relating to terrorism, and freedom rights including the freedom of expression, both online and offline. The issue was underlined also during the two days Internet Conference in Dublin. In this vein, we welcome the Representative’s subscription to the States’ right to take necessary measures in their legitimate fight against terrorism and those who appraise terrorist activities.

Cognizant of the difficulty in striking the right balance between legitimate security issues and the exercise of freedom rights, I would like to keep distinguished colleagues updated with regard to the judicial reform package that I had mentioned in my statement at the PC on 29 March, 2012. I took note of what my distinguished colleague from the United States has said today referring to our efforts in this regard. A draft bill aiming at enhancing efficiency at the judiciary, which will introduce amendments to the Anti-Terror Law as well as the Press Law has been presented before to the Parliament for adoption. When enacted, suspension by court decisions of publications aiming at spreading terrorist propaganda or appraising terrorist acts will no more be resorted as a means of security measure. In addition, disclosure of confidential information before acceptance of an indictment will no more constitute a criminal offence. I will keep the Office of the Representative informed of progress on the enactment procedure.

Mr Chairperson,

I have listened to the remarks made by the distinguished Ambassador of Denmark on behalf of the European Union with interest and would like to refer to our previous interventions in relevant OSCE fora, including my statement at the Permanent Council meeting on 24 November 2011, where detailed information on internet regulations in Turkey was shared with the participating States. Nevertheless, I feel obliged to express my puzzlement over my colleague’s reference to internet access regulations in Turkey which were not even mentioned in Ms Mijatovic’s report since no major changes had occurred during the period covered.

As underlined by experts during the two day Conference in Dublin, freedom of expression including through the Internet is not an absolute right no matter where it is exercised. It is subject to legitimate restrictions as provided for in international legal instruments as well as OSCE commitments. This is the case in Turkey, and will be the case as long as the normative structure justifies legitimate measures taken to this end.

The EU intervention has reminded us that interference with individuals’ access to the Internet is not a practice exclusive to non-EU States. I am aware of the intervention made during the Dublin Conference by Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, drawing attention to the growing number of demands for banning users’ access to political content forwarded to the management of Google search engine by governments of countries which he referred to as “Western democracies”. Google’s senior policy analyst Ms Chou, who presented Transparency Report at the Big Tent event during the Dublin Conference, was quoted in the Irish Independent of 18 June, 2012 as writing in a blog post “It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect-Western democracies.” Therefore, I would strongly recommend that the EU should engage in comprehensive dialogue with Ms Mijatovic in addressing its own shortcomings.

In concluding, we wish every success to Representative Mijatovic and her able team in their valuable endeavors across the OSCE area.

Thank you.