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Landmark Turkish court ruling: Anti-gay language is not freedom of speech

Landmark Turkish court ruling: Anti-gay language is not freedom of speech

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Setting an important legal precedent, Istanbul’s Criminal Court on Monday issued a landmark ruling against a religious Turkish newspaper for its use of anti-gay language, saying it illegally offended LGBT people.

Kaos GL
In this 2012 photo, LGBT rights advocates protest against anti-gay hate language used by a Turkish religious newspaper.

Turkey’s main LGBT advocacy group, Kaos GL, was previously blocked by a lower court from prosecuting Yeni Akit, a religious pro-government newspaper, for running an anti-gay article with defamatory language.

In the article, Yeni Akit alleged that a brochure prepared by Kaos GL to help teachers learn about different sexualities and tackle homophobia and transphobia, was in fact an attempt of a group “perverts” and “deviants” to corrupt children and make them think their “heretic” behavior was normal.

The lower court did not grant the right for prosecution to Kaos GL, stating that language used by was within the scope of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, referring to freedom of expression.

Following an appeal by Kaos GL to the higher Criminal Court of Istanbul, the judges ruled that, “Within the scope of the news that is complained, a group with different sexual orientation is clearly humiliated and insulted. Non-prosecution decision is not valid as public action should be taken.”

The court also stated that such language is not within the scope of freedom expression or press.

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The court ruled that the newspaper be prosecuted for violating Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code, which prohibits insulting social groups.

Ömer Akpınar, Kaos GL’s Media Coordinator, told LGBTQ Nation, “This is a landmark decision for Turkey, particularly in relation to the media.”

“Yeni Akit’s use of hate speech which targeted not only LGBTQ people, but also about Armenians, non-Muslims and anyone opposing to the government, has in effect been deemed illegal,” said Akpınar. “The decision was covered by the entire mainstream Turkish media and highlights the fact that hate language against LGBTQ people is not a right to freedom of expression or press.

Akpınar said that while the ruling is specific to the article by Yeni Akit from October 2012, it sets a future precedent and guidance for other possible legal actions against hate speech.

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