Turkish courts resist judicial reform

Turkey’s courts continue to rail against international law and decisions of higher courts.

Utku Cakirozer, an MP from the main secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Thursday that the courts’ resistance continues despite a newly announced reform package.

Cakirozer issued a report titled “2019 Press Freedom Report” to mark the Working Journalists’ Day.

“In 2019, the [Turkish] courts have become the center of resistance against the Judicial Reform Strategy, which states that news and criticism cannot be punished, and against the lawful and liberal rulings by the high court,” Cakirozer said.

Unveiled in May, the reform package aimed to strengthen the sense of justice and to enhance freedom of expression as part of the country’s bid to join the European Union (EU).

“We believe that criticism should never be subject to punishment… and we have worked to remove the practices that place barriers before freedom of expression,’’ Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said at the time while commenting on the package.

In contrast to the remarks, the situation has deteriorated even further in the country, according to many critics.

According to the report, a total of 172 journalists were tried in the Turkish courts, while at least 60 journalists were detained in 2019.

The lawmaker said in the report that Turkey is the second-largest jailer of journalists in the world with 108 journalists being imprisoned.

Jailed Journos, an online platform reporting on imprisoned journalists, issued a report at the end of last year which said 161 media workers, including reporters, editors, columnists, and administrative staff, entered the new year in Turkey’s prisons.

CHP’s Cakirozer provided two recent examples in which the lower courts ruled against the decisions by Turkey’s Court of Cassation (Yargitay), the country’s high court of appeals.

Ahmet Altan, a prominent journalist, and the author was re-arrested in November, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges.

The Yargitay had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for retrial.

In November, a lower Turkish court upheld its conviction of 12 former employees of the daily Cumhuriyet despite a decision by the Yargitay which had overturned the conviction in September.

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, has been still waiting for the ban to be lifted for two weeks as the justices of the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM), Turkey’s highest, voted 10-6 in favor of lifting the ban with immediate effect in December.

A total of 36,216 websites have been prohibited by the courts in the country which has also become the most active country in the world in demanding the removal of Twitter content, Cakirozer’s report said.

The MP also said in his report that at least 250 journalists have been fired or forced to resign as a result of the crackdown under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government or the economic crisis that the country faces.

On the last day of 2019, Atila Sertel, another CHP lawmaker and former journalist, revealed another report saying more than 10,000 media workers lost their jobs in the past ten years.

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