Turkey’s Re-loaded Internet Censorship Bill Set to be Passed Thursday

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Debate in the General Assembly on Law No 5651, otherwise known as “ Code of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of Such Publication ” begins today.  Freedom of speech is already restricted in Turkey in many ways through bans, arrests of journalists and alleged pressure by politicians.  A report by a committee to protect journalists defines Turkey as the “world’s leading jailer of journalists” in 2013. In the same year, Turkey ranked 154 out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders.

On Saturday Jan. 18th protests against Law No 5651, took to the streets in Istanbul, Ankara, Adana, Izmir, Bursa, Eskişehir, Mersin, Antalya and Bodrum.  People protested and marched peacefully but were again met by the now routine violent response from Turkish police. The use of water cannons, tear gas, plastic bullets, pepper spray and violent arrests to suppress and disperse the protest.

Amendments under debate in parliament to Turkish Law No. 5651, which governs all Internet content in the country, are the latest assault on freedom of expression in Turkey. The law was originally enacted in May 2007 to curb access to YouTube videos and online pornography, but the Turkish government regularly hides behind this law and others like it to filter or block content it disfavors, including advocacy for Kurdish rights. The independent press agency Bianet estimated that 110,000 websites were blocked in 2011 alone, while Google reported Turkish requests to remove content from the web rose nearly 1000% last year.

Proposed amendments to Law No. 5651 would provide for additional penalties on authors, content providers, and users of content it deems inappropriate with no effective means of redress.

Amendments under debate in parliament to Turkish Law No. 5651, which governs all Internet content in the country, are the latest assault on freedom of expression in Turkey. The law was originally enacted in May 2007 to curb access to YouTube videos and online pornography, but the Turkish government regularly hides behind this law and others like it to filter or block content it disfavors, including advocacy for Kurdish rights. The independent press agency Bianet estimated that 110,000 websites were blocked in 2011 alone, while Google reported Turkish requests to remove content from the web rose nearly 1000% last year.

Proposed amendments to Law No. 5651 would provide for additional penalties on authors, content providers, and users of content it deems inappropriate with no effective means of redress.

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Law No. 5651 is designed to prevent Turkish citizens from accessing websites that pertain to pornography, games of chance, soccer coverage, the gay community, terrorist organizations, and any content that criticizes high-ranking officials states Reporters Without Borders.  A few of the currently banned websites in Turkey include You Tube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Pastebin and the recently banned Vagus.TV who published evidence of the PM’s corruption.  Vagus.TV also published this detailed report on Law 5651.

In a second Reporters Without Borders article, they delve into the Turkish government’s somewhat muddled explanation of a 2011 addendum to Law No. 5651: the banning of key words. Reporters Without Borders claims that while the language in the directive is intentionally vague, it states “access to websites containing words on the list would in theory be suspended and it would be impossible to create new ones containing them.”

The Turkish government started a new campaign against “too much freedom.” Next to an image of a beaten woman is a line that translates “Violence is a crime. What about the Internet? Absence of rules does not mean liberty!”, equating surfing the Internet freely and expressing opinions with using violence against someone. The once allegedly liberal AKP seems to have declared war on liberties and freedoms, now defending more regulations in every aspect of life and censorship of the media, literature and the Internet.
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Sources
The Radical Democrat
CumHuriyet
Vagus.TV
PSU.edu