Why the Turkish Constitutional Court’s Wikipedia Decision is No Reason to Celebrate

The Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) recently lifted the ban on Wikipedia and a surge of, in my view, unwarranted optimism has now sprung out of nowhere both among international and Turkish circles following the case closely. I fail to share this optimism. By all means, the lifting of the ban on Wikipedia is something to be happy about. But the timing and content of the TCC’s decision, when especially read through the political context in which it was handed down, do not give much reason to celebrate.

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Protecting All the Flags but Not the Freedom of Speech

According to news reports, Germany’s governing “grand coalition” now wants to extend protected status to the flags of other nations as well. Oddly enough, the Stars and Stripes might soon enjoy more protection in Germany than in the United States. It is not entirely clear what one should make of this curious possibility. It is rather clearer that, if the proposal becomes law, it likely won’t – and shouldn’t – survive judicial scrutiny.

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Anachronisms by Law

In an ongoing effort to combat online hate speech, the German Minister of Justice recently announced to examine the re-introduction of section 88a of the German Penal Code. This law sanctioned the ‘anti-constitutional endorsement of crime’ and was only in force during a brief period between 1976 and 1981. It was supposed to counteract the spread of aggressive opinions and calls for violence. While politicians today are struggling with the issue of harmful online speech, one should refrain from re-introducing a law that was not only controversial back then but also ineffective. Apart from that, resurrecting the law in today’s digital world raises numerous questions.

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Truth vs. Free Speech

Southeast Asian governments have been stepping up their efforts to actively manage the truth by combatting false information. Among the main tools are correction orders and state-run “fake news centers” that monitor and “rectify” alleged falsehoods online. In addition, government discourse employs increasingly belligerent language to denounce the perceived threats. The Southeast Asian “war on fake news” thus makes the region the world’s most vibrant laboratory of anti-falsehood legislation. The protection of the truth is becoming an increasingly accepted ground for restricting free speech.

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Kramp-Karrenbauer und der autoritäre Konservatismus

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauers öffentliche Kontemplation über mögliche Einschränkungen von “Meinungsmache” im digitalen öffentlichen Raum sind eine Offenbarung. Selbst wenn sie es gar nicht so gemeint haben wollte, erlaubte ihre Aussage einen Blick in die fragile, verunsicherte Seele des Konservatismus und möglicherweise sogar einen Ausblick auf das, was vom deutschen Konservatismus bald zu erwarten ist.

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Fundamental Rights as Bycatch – Russia’s Anti-Fake News Legislation

On 18 March, following approval by President Putin, Russia’s controversial anti-fake news legislation entered into force. While Russia is not the only state to address the issues of hate speech or fake news with legislative means, its new legislation raises serious constitutional concerns, particularly due to its imprecise and overly broad scope of application.

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A Look behind the Fake News Laws of Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, attempts to regulate the fake news phenomenon can be broadly categorized, on the one hand, in cases where fake news laws are conceived at least also as the government’s weapon to silence critics and dissenters, and on the other hand, cases where the discourse is lead more open-ended. Under the first category, Malaysia springs to mind, Cambodia and Vietnam possibly too. Thailand is a somewhat mixed case. Much more open-ended are the fake news discourses in Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

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“Constitutional Resilience – How Can a Democratic Constitution Survive an Autocratic Majority?”: Freedom of Speech, Media and Civil Society in Hungary and Poland

Freedom of speech, media freedom and the freedom of civil society are the lifeblood of democracy. As far as the threats to freedom of speech, media and civil society are concerned, from a normative perspective, the problems of Hungary and Poland are decidedly not external to western democracies. The question arises of how resilient constitutions are or can be made in this matter, whereby political viewpoint discrimination takes a center role in the conetxt of not only constitutional resilience but also our European values.

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The Curious Case of Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code: Insulting the Turkish President

Judgments by the Strasbourg Court are binding on Turkey and furthermore are the primary source for interpreting the European Convention of Human Rights, a treaty to which Turkey is party and which, according to Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution, prevails over national laws such as Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code on insulting the President, in the event of conflict. ECtHR jurisprudence clearly indicates such a conflict between Article 299 and the Convention. But are Turkish courts aware of this?

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