Ramazan Demir v. Turkey (European Court of Human Rights)

Information Note on the Court’s case-law 248
February 2021

Ramazan Demir v. Turkey – 68550/17

Judgment 9.2.2021 [Section II]

Article 10
Article 10-1
Freedom to receive information

Unjustified limitations on a prisoner’s ability to access Internet sites publishing legal information, on security grounds: violation

Facts – The applicant, a lawyer detained on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation and of disseminating propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation, asked the prison authorities for permission to access the Internet sites of the Court, the Constitutional Court and the Official Gazette, with a view to preparing his own defence and following his clients’ cases. However, this request was rejected by the authorities.

Law – Article 10

As prisoners’ access to certain Internet sites for the purposes of training and rehabilitation was provided for in Turkish law, the restriction on the applicant’s access to the Internet sites of the Court, the Constitutional Court and the Official Gazette, which contained only legal information that was potentially useful for the applicant’s development and rehabilitation in the context of his profession and his interests, amounted to an interference with his right to receive information. This interference was prescribed by law and pursued the legitimate aims of preventing disorder or crime.

In restricting the applicant’s access to the  Internet sites in question, the national courts’ decisions seemed to be based primarily on the provisions of Turkish law. However, the national courts did not provide sufficient explanations as to why the applicant’s access to these Internet sites could not be considered as relating to his training and rehabilitation, where prisoners’ access to the Internet was authorised under national law, nor if and why the applicant ought to be considered as a prisoner presenting a certain danger or belonging to an illegal organisation, in respect of whom Internet access could be restricted under those same provisions.

No explanation was given as to why the impugned measure had been necessary in the light of the legitimate aims of maintaining order and security in the prison and the prevention of crime. The necessary regulations concerning prisoners’ Internet use, subject to supervision by the prison authorities, had in any event been adopted with regard to training and rehabilitation programmes. Although the security considerations relied on by the national authorities could be regarded as pertinent, the domestic courts had not carried out any detailed analysis of the security risks which would allegedly have resulted from the applicant’s access to the three Internet sites, especially since the sites in question belonged to State entities and an international organisation, and the applicant would have had access to them only under the authorities’ supervision and in the conditions determined by them.

It followed that the reasons adduced by the national authorities to justify the impugned measure had been neither relevant nor sufficient and the measure in question had not been necessary in a democratic society.

Conclusion: violation (unanimously).

Article 41: EUR 1,500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

(See also Kalda v. Estonia, 17429/10, 19 January 2016, Legal summary)

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