STRASBOURG (AFP)–Europe’s top rights court on Tuesday ruled Turkey violated free speech laws when it suspended five newspapers and sentenced a magazine editor to prison over an article criticizing prison brutality.
Judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said the closure of the five newspapers for three months by a Turkish court amounted to censorship.
The Strasbourg court awarded a total of more than 37,000 Euros to the 20 journalists who filed two cases against Turkey.
In the first case, an Istanbul court halted publication of five newspapers under anti-terrorism laws, saying they were promoting propaganda from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Some 19 journalists complained this violated their right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The second case involved a magazine which ran an article criticizing a security operation in Turkish prisons that left 30 inmates dead, along with a graphic cover photo showing prisoners who had been burned or beaten.
In the wake of the article, Turkish authorities seized all copies of the magazine featuring the article and sentenced the owner and editor-in-chief, Aziz Ozer, to six months imprisonment for impinging on the moral authority of the state.
The sentence was later commuted to a fine.
The ECHR ruled unanimously that Turkey had violated the right to free speech in both cases, and said “the practice of banning the future publication of entire periodicals went beyond any necessary restraint and amounted to censorship.”