A new law that punishes those who spread “disinformation” online with prison terms of up to three years has been approved by the parliament of Turkey. (Turkey new law)
Despite objections from opposition parties, countries in Europe, and advocates for human rights, the law was passed Thursday by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Ankara denied that the bill would be used to target opposition voices and stated that it was necessary to stop the “serious threat” posed by disinformation.
However, opponents claimed that the provisions were vague and could be used to silence opposition voices.
The law was the subject of concern from the United States and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The news agency was informed on Friday by a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department that the law “could place restrictions on internet and media freedom” and “could have a significant impact” on online entertainment and information.
The spokesperson stated, “We call on the Turkish government to ensure that approaches to countering disinformation do not accidentally undermine the principles that underpin democracy — particularly freedom of expression, both online and offline.” (Turkey new law)
In the lead up to the upcoming elections in Turkey, some skeptics expressed concern that the law might limit the space for free speech.
For example, violators of Article 29 of the law face up to three years in prison for spreading false information about national security online to “create fear and disturb public order.”
“From what we have experienced up to this point, we think that censorship will be applied with this law,” stated Faruk Eren, head of the press union at the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, referring to the law’s ambiguous language.
“If they share something that the government does not like and calls a lie on social media,” he stated to VOA, both ordinary citizens and journalists could be sentenced to prison or arrested.
The government already exerts pressure on the media, according to Isin Elicin, who hosts a weekly news show for the digital outlet Medyascope. She stated, however, that the pressure “has become legal” now.
It is, in fact, a method of terrorizing individuals. So much so that common citizens and Twitter users will be reluctant to retweet or even like the content, as Elicin told the news. An amendment that restricts speech is this one.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which keeps track of media arrests and is based in New York, claims that Turkey has one of the worst records in the world for imprisoning journalists.
Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog, ranks Turkey 149th out of 180 nations, with the No.In terms of the Press Freedom Index, 1 has the best media environment. According to the group, which has its headquarters in Paris, “authoritarianism is gaining ground” in Turkey, where “all possible means are used to undermine critics.”
According to a spokesperson for the State Department, laws with ambiguous language “have a chilling effect on expression, restrict free and open debate, increase censorship and self-censorship, and endanger the privacy of internet users,” according to the news agency. (Turkey new law)
Additionally, the spokesperson stated that the assertion that similar laws exist in the United States is false.
Turkish media reported this week that an AKP lawmaker claimed American officials had informed him that similar regulations exist in the United States.
According to the spokesperson, “the free flow of information and data is vital,” the United States of America has urged Turkey to consult with civil society organizations, media organizations, and others to ensure that the law does not have “unintended consequences.”
The disinformation law was characterized by the rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as “another worrying step back for freedom of speech and the media.”
According to a recent opinion from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and a PACE resolution, the law was “an unnecessary and disproportionate interference with the freedom of expression” according to PACE co-rapporteurs John Howell and Boriss Cilevics, who are monitoring Turkey.
In a statement provided to the news agency on Friday, they stated, “It could have a chilling effect and trigger self-censorship, causing irreparable harm prior to the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2023.”
According to the rapporteurs, Turkey’s constitutional court ought to examine the law and take into account the opinions of the Venice Commission and Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe’s rights watchdog, the Venice Commission, warned that the law could have a negative impact.
Herdis Kjerulf Thorgeirsdottir, vice president of the Venice Commission, stated earlier this week, “Our main concern is the chilling effect that this will have on the political debate in Turkey, as this draft law will apply to everyone.” People who are found guilty of disseminating false or misleading information will face severe penalties ranging from one to three years in prison, which will encourage widespread self-censorship, which is already struggling in a hostile environment.
Republican People’s Party (CHP), the opposition party in Turkey, announced on Friday that it would petition the Constitutional Court to invalidate the legislation, which CHP member Burak Erbay referred to as “the biggest censorship law in history.” (Turkey new law)
The agency was informed by Eren, a member of the press union, that the law “is not just the problem of journalists.”
The right to information ought to be protected. Journalists should be supported by the public. He stated, “Maybe this law will provide that opportunity to bring journalists and the public together.”
Despite the fact that the new law made her feel uneasy, it would not alter how she approaches journalism at this crucial time before elections.
She stated in news, “What is wanted is to create fear, keep information hidden, pacify people, and intimidate.” Be that as it may, “individuals need to get familiar with reality, discuss each subject and, additionally, talk about it.”
The bill now needs to be approved by the president of Turkey.