Turkey

 CountryType of Law 
 
 

Criminal Defamation

Defamation remains a criminal offence in Turkey (punishable with imprisonment).

The relevant offence in the Turkish Criminal Code (Ceza Kanunu) is insult (Art. 125).

Insult (hakaret) is defined as “undermining the honour, dignity or respectability of another person or who attacks a person’s honour by attributing to them a concrete act or a fact, or by means of an insult”. Insult is punished by a judicial fine or a prison sentence of three months to two years. If the insult was committed in the victim’s absence, there must be at least three witnesses to the act. If insult is committed publicly, the penalty is increased by one-sixth. Insult can be committed by means of spoken, written or visual message as well.

 

Criminal Defamation of Public Officials

Provisions on the books.

According to Art. 125 of the Turkish Criminal Code, insult (see above under “Criminal Defamation”) committed against a public official in connection with official duty is punished with at least one year in prison. In case of insult against public officials working as a committee the offence shall be deemed to have been committed against all committee members.

 

Criminal Defamation of the Head of State

Provisions on the books.

Insulting the Turkish President is a criminal offence under Art. 299 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The punishment is one to four years in prison, increased by one-sixth if the offence is committed publicly. If the act is committed by means of the print or broadcast media, the punishment is further raised by one-third.

 

Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols

Provisions on the books.

Art. 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code criminalises insult against the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial bodies of State, the military, or security structures. The punishment is six months to two years in prison. It is specified that “[e]xpressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime” and that prosecution shall be subject to the approval of the Minister of Justice.

Art. 300 criminalises insulting the Turkish flag or any symbol bearing the white crescent and star on red background designated as the symbol of Turkey. The punishment is one to three years in prison. Under the same article, denigrating the Turkish national anthem is punished with six months to two years in prison. If the offence was committed by a Turkish citizen in a foreign country the penalty shall be increased by one-third.

 

Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols

Provisions on the books.

Insulting the flag or other symbol of sovereignty of a foreign state is a criminal offence under Art. 341 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The punishment is three months to one year in prison. Investigations and prosecutions for this offence must be prompted by a complaint from the foreign state in question.

 

Criminal Defamation of the Deceased

Provisions on the books.

Insulting the memory of a deceased person is a criminal offence under Art. 130 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The punishment is three months to two years in prison. The punishment shall be increased by one-sixth if the offence was committed publicly. Three witnesses are required for prosecution of this offence.

 

Criminal Blasphemy

Provisions on the books.

Disrespecting the religious beliefs of a group o is a criminal offence under Art. 216 of the Turkish Criminal Code, if such act causes a potential risk for public peace. The punishment is imprisonment from six months to one year.

 

In addition, Art. 125 (insult) of the Criminal Code specifies that when insult is committed in response to expression of religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thought or opinions, to attempts to propagate such beliefs, thought or opinions, to a person’s religious behaviour in terms of his/her compliance with the requirements and prohibitions of the religion or in reference to holy values of a person’s religion, the minimum punishment shall be one year in prison.

 

Criminal Procedure

Art. 131 of the Turkish Criminal Code states that the prosecution of an insult shall be subject to the filing of a complaint by the injured party except for insults committed against a public officer in relation to his or her duty. If the injured party has died, a complaint may be filed by ascendants or descendants up to the second degree or by his spouse or siblings.

 

Statistics on Application

 

Civil Defamation

Turkey has no specific law on civil defamation. Civil liability is covered under the Civil Code and the Code of Obligations.

Damages

There are no caps on non-pecuniary damages for defamation in Turkish law.

 

 

Recent Legal Changes

 

Media Cases and Case Law

In development. See also IPI’s special report on press freedom in Turkey, “Democracy at Risk“, published in March 2015.

 

Legal Sources and Acknowledgements

Information on defamation laws in Europe was collected by the International Press Institute (IPI) in collaboration with the School of Public Policy’s Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University in Budapest and their partners at the SHARE Foundation in Belgrade. (Read more about our partners here.)

The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at ipi[at]freemedia.at.

Information on Turkey was last updated in January 2015.

 

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