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A Landmark Decision by the Turkish Constitutional Court on “Right to be Forgotten”

Turkish Constitutional Court recently decided in favour of an applicant, who suffered from two piece of internet-news dated 1998 and 1999; and decided that such news be removed from the website of the concerning newspaper based on the ground of “right to be forgotten”. The news subject to the ruling reported the applicant’s use of drugs and sentence of monetary fine due to such usage.

The court ruled that:

  • the right to be forgotten is not specifically regulated under Turkish Constitution;
  • however, it is state’s duty to protect a person’s reputation according to Article 17 and Article 5 of the Turkish Constitution, respectively on protection of moral and physical integrity of a person, and state’s duties. Hence such provisions should constitute the basis for the “right to be forgotten” under Turkish law;
  • a fair balance between freedom of speech, free press and protection of a person’s reputation, be established in light of the “right to be forgotten”;  
  • such pieces of news dated 1998 and 1999 have lost its actuality; hence there is no need to have a public access to such pieces of news;
  • a newspaper may easily archive its content without giving public to access to it; hence in light of the principle of proportionality, the desired result may be achieved without erasing the content as a whole.

I must point out that this decision is not the first high court decision rendered on the ground of “right to be forgotten” in Turkey. The General Chamber of Court of Appeals has already made a ruling in June 2015, which provided a very detailed definition of “right to be forgotten”. Actually, Constitutional Court’s reasoning includes a reference to such decision of General Chamber of Court of Appeals as well as several decisions of Court of Justice including the famous Google-Costeja Decision.

On the other hand, this decision is still particularly important; because it recognizes the "right to be forgotten" in a constitutional level in Turkey and links it to a constitutional provision.

Constitutional Court rendered this decision on 3 March 2016 and this decision was published in the Official Gazette on 24 August 2016.

For the Turkish language version of this decision you can click on the following link: Constitutional Court Decision on Right to be Forgotten (in TR)

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Publication Date: 26 August 2016