Türkiye: Drop terrorism charges against journalist Furkan Karabay

Türkiye: Drop terrorism charges against journalist Furkan Karabay - Civic Space

Ahead of the trial scheduled for today, 5 March, ARTICLE 19 calls for dropping criminal charges against journalist Furkan Karabay. Karabay stands trial for his news article and social media activity criticising a judge. We find the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law under which Karabay is charged and his prosecution to be incompatible with international and European standards on the freedom of expression. Charges against Karabay must be dropped, and Türkiye must urgently amend the Anti-Terrorism Law.

The charges against journalist Furkan Karabay stem from an article, published on 31 January 2023 on Turkish news website Gerçek Gündem, profiling İrfan Fidan, a current Judge of the Constitutional Court of Türkiye and previous Chief Public Prosecutor in Istanbul. In the article, he alleged that Fidan abused his prosecutorial powers in controversial cases, including those dealing with espionage, corruption, money laundering, high-profile assassinations, and terrorism. He also alleged that Fidan had ties with the ruling party in Türkiye and highlighted alleged instances of impunity in cases overseen by Fidan where persons affiliated with the political establishment were accused of criminal offences. Karabay also published a series of tweets in January 2023 generally reflecting the content of the article. 

Subsequently, in July and August 2023, Karabay was charged under Article 6(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Law which prohibits disclosing or publishing the identity of officials on anti-terrorist duties or identifying them as targets, which the prosecution claims Karabay did through his tweets and article. 

The next hearing in the case is scheduled to take place today, 5 March 2024, at the Ankara 4th Assize Court (the Court). ARTICLE 19 submitted an expert opinion to be considered by the Court in its proceedings. 

In the expert opinion, ARTICLE 19 argues that as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights, Türkiye must ensure that any restrictions on the right freedom of expression are provided for by law, pursue a legitimate aim, and are necessary in a democratic society. The prosecution of Karabay does not meet these requirements. 

In particular, we argue that:

  • Article 6(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Law (Law No. 3713) punishes an overly ambiguous range of conduct, allowing it to serve as a catch-all formula to criminalise any content and any information pertaining to an ill-defined category of relevant public officials.  
  • International freedom of expression standards mandate that as an important public figure, Fidan needs to accept higher levels of criticism and intrusion in his privacy. Moreover, Fidan’s identity and his role in terrorism-related cases were already in public domain when Karbay published his article and tweets. The prosecution has not been able to demonstrate how Karabay’s publications threatened Fidan’s rights, and has failed to show the necessity of taking any measures against these publications.
  • Criminal punishment against Karabay is wholly disproportionate to the state aim (protection of public officials). The imposition of criminal sanctions – in this case, imprisonment, if he is found guilty – on a well-known journalist for speech of political nature will also inevitably produce a chilling effect on the media environment in Türkiye and will discourage others from participating in a debate on issues of public interest.

ARTICLE 19 calls for immediate dismissal of all charges against Karabay related to this case and urges the Turkish government to repeal Article 6(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 3713. 

Read the full submission

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