Court rules closure of Özgür Gündem newspaper was unconstitutional

Turkish Constitutional Court decided that the temporary closure of the pro-Kurdish newspaper "Özgür Gündem" in August 2016 violated freedom of the press and freedom of expression and was therefore unconstitutional.

The temporary closure of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem was unconstitutional, ruled the Turkish Constitutional Court in Ankara. The ordered closure of the publication violated freedom of expression and freedom of the press (Articles 26 and 28), which are enshrined as fundamental rights in the constitution, according to the court.

On August 16, 2015, the Istanbul District Court's 8th Criminal Division ordered the temporary closure of Özgür Gündem. The newspaper was accused of making propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and acting as a "mouthpiece for the organization." Government sources said the court decision was made independently of the state of emergency and could be appealed. A few weeks earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had declared a state of emergency "in response to the failed coup attempt."

One day after the temporary closure of the newspaper, 24 people were arrested, including journalists and employees of the paper. Arrest warrants were issued for some of them, including book author Asli Erdogan. The prosecution accused her and well-known intellectuals such as Eren Keskin and Ragip Zarakolu of "membership in a terrorist organization" and "attempted destruction of national unity. In October of the same year, Özgür Gündem was finally banned by government decree. The Constitutional Court's reasoning in the case of the temporary closure is to be announced in the next few days.