This new Censorship Law will allow Turkey’s telecommunications authority to block websites and censor any internet content without a prior court decision.
The legislation also would force Internet service providers to keep records on Web users’ activities for two years and make them available to authorities when requested, without notifying the users.
Internet access in Turkey is already restricted and thousands of websites blocked. 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. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been openly critical of the internet, calling Twitter a “scourge” and condemning social media as “the worst menace to society”. Both Twitter and Facebook were widely used by anti-government protesters to spread information during demonstrations last year. 18:55
18:58 Police charging at the protest on Isiktal St in Istanbul.
Ankara Thousands marched to Kızılay, protesting the new internet censorship bill recently approved by president Abdullah Gül.
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.
The levels of self censorship that will occur amongst everyday Turkish citizens and activists when the knowledge that they could be legally targeted for their online activity once the new measures are implemented are impossible to estimate. As well as what content will be banned or groups of people will become targets and possible face arrest for what they say and do on-line. One thing is clear to many, the passage of this new bill is not going to create a safer environment for the Gezi protesters.