With internet censorship and privacy becoming a growing issue each day, the implementation of Turkey’s new law is shocking. The law will tighten the state’s grip on the Internet and changes the majority of original Turkey internet law from 2007. Street protests and campaigns against the new law have been in full force since the law approval on Sept. 9th.
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey sanctioned the controversial legislation, but hurt his public identity in the process. A Twitter campaign – #UnFollowAbdullahGul – was launched and his follower count promptly dropped by more than 100,000 in two days. The public is so concerned and outraged with this new law because it will allow Turkey’s telecommunications authority, Telecommunication Directorate (TIB), to block websites without first obtaining a court order, block specific URL’s (unlike the 2007 law), and regulates the amount of information saved and tracked through the internet. Even though a court order is necessary within 24hrs of a website being blocked, it will stay that way until the court makes a decision, which could take a long amount of time.
This is worrisome because news reports and other sources of information can be blocked immediately when uploaded. As an American, I know our freedom of the press is protected and we value it greatly; what are the political and social implications of having news continuously blocked and censored? Is it truly “helping the citizens of Turkey”? A primary example of the cultural impact this could have is seen in the blocking of YouTube from 2007 until 2010 for videos against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. This changed the entire outlook of internet and social media usage.
One of the many reasons this law was adopted so quickly was because of leaked phone recordings that have evidence of “document corruption in state tenders and bribery involving businessmen and the Turkish government.” The head of TIB is appointed by the government, so it is speculated that the government may be working to control this situation more than they will admit. Their response to the public outrage is that the law was necessary for reasons of “national security, to protect public order, and to prevent a crime from being committed.” It sounds reasonable, but time will tell if this is truly why the law was enacted.
“The real problem and the bitter truth, which is mostly ignored, is the excess of power to undermine the judiciary and providing juridical immunity to government officials.” (Source)
The Republican People’s Party, the opposition to the Turkish government, released a statement stating that “the AKP government, striving to restrict freedom in every domain, is stepping up its pressure on the Internet, which is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives.” I cannot imagine not having freedom of speech, which is (as I understand) the primary concern in Turkey. This new law is seen as a severe form of censorship and puts citizens out of touch with the rest of the world. News in Turkey can become extremely biased and distorted only certain coverage and reports are allowed.
Summed up, the latest amendments mean that the Turkish government can now “legally” hold information about all Internet users in Turkey, including which websites they visit when and for how long, and have the power to block websites and URL’s whenever they deem necessary. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, for the sake of free speech and free press.
Side note: Andy Alexander, an Ohio University Alumnus, was part of a group of American journalists representing the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) in Turkey. See the news article here.