New ban on filming Turkish police dangerous, say lawyers

The Turkish Interior Ministry moving to prevent recordings of law enforcement officers on duty has no legal basis, lawyer Gökhan Ahi told Arab News in an interview published on Saturday.

Police officers’ acts against demonstrators do not involve the privacy of officers, Ahi said, contrary to what the ministry cited in a circular leaked by the Contemporary Lawyers Association earlier in the week.

The circular, signed by General Director of Security Mehmet Aktaş, ordered officers to prevent any audio and video recordings of active duty personnel, saying recording officers constituted the criminal offence of obstruction of duty.

“There is no doubt that recording and publishing unauthorised audio and video recordings violate the right to privacy,” Aktaş said.

According to Ahi, privacy protections in Turkish law apply “only to the individuals, and the public institutions and public officials are exempted from such protection”.

Public officials have “cannot enjoy privacy clauses” for acts committed in public, Ahi said. Recording of police actions, unlawful ones in particular, “provide strong evidence and a de facto monitoring mechanism for judicial authorities, especially in cases of torture and mistreatment”, he added.

Turkey removed identification numbers from riot police helmets recently, and started to utilise plainclothes officers more in public unrest situations, Ahi said, a situation that has exacerbated concerns over accountability.

During International Workers’ Day protests on Saturday, officers targeted journalists to stop them from recording, Journalists Society of Turkey (TGS) said in a statement released on Sunday.

“Our colleagues’ cameras and phones were forcibly confiscated and their work erased,” daily BirGün cited TGS as saying. “The constitutional right to free press has been violated once again.”

Yol TV reporter Özge Uyanık recorded a video on Saturday during a confrontation with officers.

“The circular was released just yesterday, stop recording,” the officer is heard as saying in the video, before he throws Uyanık’s phone on the ground and stomps on it.