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Turkey passes Internet censorship law

Turkish President Abdullah Gül has approved new legislation that will increase the government’s already tight control over Internet usage.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | February 27, 2014

Amendments to an existing law will give the Turkish government more power and access to Internet users’ data, and, in emergency situations block content deemed illegal without judicial oversight.

WAN-IFRA first reported on the proposed changes to the law earlier this month.

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report says the law will also require all Internet service providers to join a state run association that would determine future content and data related policies.

US-based Human Rights Watch is one of several international organisations opposed to the new measures.

“President Gül should veto these new measures to ensure Turkey does not violate its obligations to respect the right to access to information, freedom of expression, and privacy rights,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch.

On Twitter, European Parliament President Martin Schulz voiced his concern, saying that the new law was “a step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom.” Turkey is a prospective member of the EU.

The new amendments prompted social media activism throughout the country. Following President Gül’s tweet about the new legislation, the hashtag #UnfollowAbdullahGul began trending. Since its launch, the hashtag has been used 60,000 times and has resulted in the president losing more than 80,000 Twitter followers.

During the past few years, censorship and press freedom have become major issues in Turkey – the country now leads the world in the number of journalists jailed.

The newly tightened law was originally implemented in 2007 to impede access to material related to child pornography, gambling, information on recreational drugs, and defamatory material about Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. However, one effect of the law has made it easy for individuals and businesses to have websites banned.

Following the Gezi Park anti-government protests in June 2013, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan called social media “the worst menace to society.”

Meanwhile, Turkish website Engelliweb says that, since 2007, more than 40,000 websites have been banned in the country, including Youtube and WordPress.