On 26 September 2019, lawyers defending academic Bülent Şik submitted ARTICLE 19’s expert opinion in a case in which he was charged of disclosure of prohibited and confidential information and securing prohibited information. If found guilty, Şik would face a custodial sentence of 5 to 12 years.
ARTICLE 19 submits that the prosecution of Şık in this case violates his right to freedom of expression, as it constitutes a disproportionate interference that is not necessary in a democratic society.
An academic working on public health and food safety, Şıkis investigated in relation tothe publication of an article in Cumhuriyet newspaper on 16 April 2018, entitled “Report Hidden From the Public,”with the subtitles: “This Is How We Are Poisoned;” “Research Hidden by the Ministry;” “Poison in Food;” and, “Chemicals Are Everywhere.”The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Ankara opened the case based on a complaint filed by a Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Health on 17 April 2018. In the letter, the Ministry alleged that the impugned article revealed supposedly confidential information, in a manner so as to lead to public indignation.
In its analysis of the case, ARTICLE 19 does not share the prosecution’s assessment that the impugned that the Cumhuriyetarticle was written in a style to create, or appear to create, panic among the public. Further, ARTICLE 19 outlines that the challenged statements relating to public health and environmental issues are matters of public interest for the majority of society and therefore warrant protection under international law.
Furthermore, the other on-going prosecution against Şık and his dismissal by Emergency Decree Law for supporting the Petition for Peace suggests that the prosecution in this case is politically motivated. This exacerbates the already problematic chilling effect of his prosecution on society.