High Court of Appeals rules against homophobic journalism

Published: January 9, 2012

Turkey’s High Court of Appeals has ordered the Turkish daily paper Yeni Akit to pay compensation for insulting LGBT people in a headline it printed in 2008, according to a report published by Hürriyet.

Yeni Akit printed an article titled "Üskül prefers perverts," regarding Zafer Üskül, the then head of Turkish Parliamentary Human Rights Commission who attended an "International Anti-Homophobism Meeting" organized by KAOS GL, a leading support organisation for Turkey’s LGBT community.

The article written by columnist Serdar Arseven described Üskül as "an AKP [Justice and Development Party] member who gave assurances to she-males.” This was in reference to his statement during the meeting that the government guaranteed that LGBT would not be segregated due to their sexual orientations. “[Üskül] went on and attended a meeting by sexual perverts! A meeting of [gays],” Arseven wrote.

KAOS GL filed a lawsuit against Yeni Akit and Arseven, seeking compensation for the headline and the related article. The lawsuits, however, were rejected by two Ankara courts on the grounds that the newspaper was "within the limits of criticism."

The High Court of Appeals overruled the judgements of the two courts, saying, "The freedom of the press does not encompass the freedom to insult the personal freedoms of individuals."

The court stated that Yeni Akit insulted people with different sexual orientations in a way which could not be considered criticism and ordered the paper to pay 4,000 Turkish liras ($2,123), while Arseven has been sentenced to pay 2,000 liras ($1,061) in damages.

KAOS GL told Gay Middle East that the court’s ruling was a breakthrough: "The Newspaper Vakit (currently named) has been publishing news and articles spreading hate speech. All the cases that we filed against their hate speech had not produced any results so far. As a matter of fact, in both cases mentioned, the court had rejected the demand for compensation, saying it was "within the limits of criticism.

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