Turkey orders law enforcement to prevent all recordings of officers ahead of May Day

Turkey’s General Director of Security Mehmet Aktaş ordered all law enforcement officers to prevent any and all audio or video recordings of active duty personnel in a circular made public by a lawyers’ NGO on Thursday.

In the Interior Ministry document the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD) made public, Aktaş urges officers to “not allow such behaviours of making audio or video recordings” and “prevent persons from making recordings”.

Aktaş said recording active duty officers constituted obstruction of duty, a criminal offence cited in the Police Duties and Responsibilities Act.

Videos showing law enforcement officers “are published on various digital platforms in a manner that is harmful for the personal rights of our personnel or citizens, or harm their safety”, Aktaş said. “There is no doubt that recording and publishing unauthorised audio and video recordings violate the right to privacy.”

The circular was sent ahead of May 1 International Workers’ Day, celebrations and demonstrations for which won’t be officially authorised as Turkey entered a nationwide two-week full lockdown on Thursday to curb the spread of COVID-19. The deadly virus has claimed upwards of 300 lives every day since April 18.

The ministry aims to guarantee impunity for its personnel with the circular, ÇHD said, adding, “If your personnel commits torture while carrying out their duties, they will be recorded, people will gather evidence. Because, again, torture isn’t part of your mandate, it is a crime!”

“This is the personnel they want to protect with the circular. This should be recorded when it is witnessed,” ÇHD said, sharing an image of a police officer pushing his knee on the neck of a leftist activist. “We want to remind you that when you notice a crime being committed, you are allowed to make recordings to gather evidence.”

On April 16, a video by journalist Gökhan Özbek went viral, showing an officer intimidating a citizen to get her to delete a video she recorded of a traffic incident.

The officer is seen shouting, “Who are you to record me?” and “Erase the video, if you think I did something wrong, go file a complaint,” as the citizen says as a member of the public she has a duty to record wrongdoing.