Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023


Journalists say that this new law will further help the Turkish government to censor the media and silence the opposition before the upcoming elections.

File photo IANS
File photo IANS
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Since Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2014, a controversial law criminalizing insulting the president has led to the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, from high school students to a former Miss. Turkey is also included.

Under a new law passed by parliament in October, reporters and social media users could be jailed for up to three years for allegedly publishing “fake news”.

“Accusations, investigations and threats have become the norm in our daily lives,” Gokhan Baseji, editor-in-chief of dokuz8NEWS, an independent news portal based in Istanbul, told AFP. “Being very careful and trying as much as possible not to be targeted is the biggest problem for most journalists in Turkey today, including independent journalists.”

Media law experts say the new law allows authorities to shut down the Internet, preventing the public from broadcasting the views of exiled Turkish leader Sadat Pekar about alleged government corruption.

Authorities will get wider powers

In addition, the government can restrict access to social media, as it did after the November 13 bombings in Istanbul. Six people were killed in the attack, which Turkish authorities blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Most of the newspapers and news channels in Turkey are owned by the coalition parties of the government and they support every position of the government. But social networks and internet-based media are largely independent and are a source of concern for Erdogan.

Next year’s elections are very important for Erdogan. His ruling party’s popularity has hit record lows amid the country’s soaring inflation and currency crisis.

Yemen Akdiniz, an expert on digital rights issues, said the law gives “broader and unfettered powers to the authorities” in terms of their use before elections.

“Therefore, it is not surprising that the first person to be investigated under this law is the leader of the largest opposition party,” he said. Under this new law, Kemal Kilicdaroglu was charged for posting a statement on Twitter regarding the current situation in Turkey. Oglu may be a possible presidential candidate in next year’s elections.

Erdo─čan government’s position

Basiji says the government already has a wide range of powers to silence independent media, ranging from anti-terrorism to defamation laws.

Erdogan, however, has defended the new law. Calling it an urgent need, he termed the “defamation campaign” on social media as a “terrorist attack” on the social network. The government also says the law is meant to combat misinformation and has started publishing a weekly “disinformation bulletin”.

“The government is arming itself with more powers to exert greater control over social media,” says Emma Sinclair Webb of Human Rights Watch. He said that this law will also create a lot of problems for technology companies. They will either have to follow the government’s instructions to remove the content or pay a hefty fine.

Turkish journalists also protested against this law during the debate in the parliament. The head of the Turkish Journalists Association, Gokhan Darmus, said, “This law will destroy even the little freedom of expression.”

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