Turkish opposition calls new media law ‘censorship’, will appeal to top court

  • Share

ANKARA – Turkey’s main opposition party said on Friday that it would petition the country’s highest court to overturn new media legislation that would punish people for sharing “misinformation,” describing the measures as unprecedented censorship.

The measure was passed late Thursday by Parliament after being introduced by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP), which claims it intends to regulate online publications, defend the country, and combat disinformation.

The measure was slammed by Turkey’s Western friends and rights groups, who claimed that its vague reference to “false or misleading information” may be interpreted differently by judges in order to punish anyone who criticize the government.

According to Article 29 of the law, people who circulate false information regarding Turkey’s security in order to “create panic and disturb public order” will face a one to three-year prison sentence. The bill must still be approved by the president.

“We’re talking about the most draconian law in our history, with the most censorship,” Burak Erbay, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), stated.

He stated that the party would petition the Constitutional Court as soon as the “Law on Amending the Press Law” was published in the Official Gazette.

“We believe that the Constitutional Court will overturn and abolish the largest censorship statute in history.” “It’s a regulation that reduces us to the level of developing societies,” Erbay told Reuters.

The law was approved by the AKP’s nationalist partners, the MHP, while opposition parties rejected it.

The AKP has dismissed the criticism, saying it opposes censorship and that the law is intended to safeguard everyone from false charges on social media.

According to the pro-government Sabah daily, a “safe age” in social media has dawned. It said that the regulations would strengthen national security by allowing for the quick removal of content that might jeopardize public order.

Hundreds of journalists have been imprisoned in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt, mostly on terrorism allegations. Ankara has defended the measures as a necessary response to the magnitude of Turkey’s security threat.

People have also been tried for social media posts that criticize Turkey’s invasions in Syria or are perceived as insulting the president, both of which are crimes in Turkey.

According to Ozgur Ogret, Turkey’s spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists, the new law threatens not only journalists but all citizens and may boost self-censorship ahead of next year’s elections.

“This rule will impede the free flow of information in an electoral climate,” he stated after speaking at an International Press Institute press freedom event in Istanbul.

“Freedom of expression is always vital, but in an election environment, it is critical for everyone to speak their thoughts and voters to make decisions based on reliable information.”

According to polls, if a presidential election were held today, Erdogan would lose to an opposition candidate, and the opposition coalition would win a majority in parliament.

Arda Guzel, an Ankara student, claimed the new rule was intended to silence critical voices on social media and prevent the opposition from gaining more votes.

“Because people nowadays look at social media more than traditional media, they may acquire negative news about the administration more quickly,” he explained.

“They enacted this law in response to these news stories.”

Source: Reuters

  • Share