The Istanbul Governorate's circular, which prohibits drinking on public beaches, parks, picnic areas, and promenades, has ignited a significant debate within the city. In opposition to the circular, the Istanbul Bar Association has initiated legal proceedings to temporarily halt its enforcement and ultimately have it revoked. (9) Their argument is based on the assertion that the circular infringes upon personal freedoms, particularly the right to "privacy," as guaranteed by the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a subsequent statement, the Istanbul Governorate contended that the objective of the circular was to safeguard security and maintain public order.(10)
The circular cites the primary reason for its issuance as follows: "Most individuals involved in the incidents were found to be under the influence of alcohol." It further asserts that individuals consuming alcohol have been responsible for disruptions to the environment, as well as instilling fear and panic among the public.(11)
According to the circular, those who do not adhere to the prohibition will be subject to a fine of 617 TL and will be held under supervision until the effects of intoxication have dissipated.
The initial statement was widely interpreted by the public as a ban on drinking in public places. In response to this interpretation, the Istanbul Governor's Office issued a clarification, asserting that individuals who consume alcohol on their own would not face penalties, and that the focus was solely on those who disturb the public environment.
According to some news reports, despite the existing legislation in Turkey that prohibits the retail sale of alcohol between 22:00 and 06:00, this circular was distributed to relevant departments due to a recent increase in complaints regarding non-compliance with the ban. Nevertheless, even though the issue may have faded from the public agenda, it is apparent that this regulation continues to create confusion. The Istanbul Governor's Office has indicated that the circular exclusively targets individuals who disrupt public order but has not provided explicit guidance on its implementation.
The recent restrictions on alcohol consumption in Turkey constitute a significant violation on personal rights and freedoms. Regardless of the motivations behind these restrictions, such interventions into individuals' lifestyles are not consistent with the principles of a democratic society. In a democracy, individuals should have the freedom to make choices and lead their lives according to their own preferences.
It's important to recognize that every individual has a unique lifestyle shaped by their personal preferences and values. For some people, alcohol consumption is a part of their social interactions, and it is imperative in a democratic society not to impose restrictions on these preferences and values but rather to safeguard them.
2 AYM, E.2018/99, K.2021/14, 03/03/2021, §§ 62-99
3 Radyo, Televizyon ve İsteğe Bağlı Yayınların İnternet Ortamından Sunumu Hakkında Yönetmelik, 01.08.2019 tarihli ve 30849 sayılı Resmî Gazetede yayımlanarak yürürlüğe girmiştir.
4 İfade Özgürlüğü Derneği, EngelliWeb 2022: Sulh Ceza Hakimliklerinin Gölgesinde Anayasa Mahkemesi, s. 131-134, https://ifade.org.tr/reports/EngelliWeb_2022.pdf