Singer and 2010 Freemuse Award winner Ferhat Tunç has once again caught the attention of Turkish authorities and potentially faces five years and eight months in prison on charges of “insulting the president” for messages shared via social media, reported CNN Turk on 13 October 2017.
Freemuse remains concerned about the continued deterioration of human rights in Turkey under current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and calls on his government to drop the charges against Tunç.
“Freedom of expression is an inalienable right, especially in a democracy where citizens, including artists like Ferhat Tunç, have the right to voice their opinions about any subject in any manner, including political criticism through social media. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a responsibility to his citizenry to uphold such rights according to the international standards Turkey has signed on to,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
The musician, who denied the charges and said the intent of sharing the messages on social media was not to insult the president, is set to stand trial on 23 February 2018. Initially, the alleged offense was set to carry a charge of one year and five months in prison.
The case against the musician began in December 2016 when a private citizen sent a complaint to the Prime Minister’s Communication Centre over social media messages shared on the musician’s Twitter account. The Bursa Public Prosecutor then began an investigation into seven tweets from the musician’s account, reported Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.
Erdoğan has brought up thousands of Turkish citizens, including many artists, on insult charges ever since he took power in 2014. In the aftermath of an attempted coup in 2016, the state of human rights, particularly that of freedom of expression, has quickly deteriorated under the guise of national security.
In his over 30-year career as a musician, Tunç has been the target of numerous investigations and cases against him either because of his music or speeches.
Turkey ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 23 September 2003. The United Nations’ Human Rights Committee’s General Comment no. 34, which is legally binding as part of the ICCPR, states clearly in paragraph 38 that any national laws that prohibit “defamation of the head of the state”, “disrespect of authorities” or “criticism of institutions such as army and the administration” are inconsistent with the treaty. In addition, as part of this treaty, such national laws must be amended to comply with the ICCPR.