Eight months before the elections, the screw was turned again against information in Turkey
Turkey on Thursday passed a disapproved disinformation law that offers up to three years in prison for anyone accused of spreading “false or misleading information” eight months before the general election.
The 40 articles of the text, officially known as the “press law”, which have been under discussion since the beginning of October, were the subject of numerous unsuccessful amendments by the opposition, which for its part denounced a “censorship law”.
In particular, Article 29 provides for imprisonment from one to three years for “the dissemination of false or misleading information contrary to the internal and external security of the country and likely to damage public health, disturb public order, or spread fear or panic among the population”.
In addition to newspapers, radio and TV stations, the law targets social networks and websites, which are being asked to report and release the personal information of their users accused of spreading fake news.
The opposition tried unsuccessfully to block this text, put forward in May by AKP MPs – the Justice and Development Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking a new term in June 2023.
But with a majority of 334 out of 581 seats for the AKP and its allies in parliament, the text had little chance of being stopped.
In December 2021, the head of state estimated that social networks, initially perceived as a symbol of freedom, “have become one of the greatest threats to democracy”.
-with a hammer blow-
In the final hours of the debate, a member of parliament for the opposition party CHP (Social Democrats), Burak Erbay, addressed a change of mood to the Turkish youth, who “will vote for the first time in June” – and who are bearing the full brunt of the severe economic crisis – withdrew his smartphone and smashed it with a hammer blow.
“You only have one freedom, it’s this phone in your pocket. There you have Instagram, YouTube, Facebook. You share. Today, October 12, when the law is passed by this Parliament, you can break it like this , my boy brothers. Because you can no longer use them”.
Then to the government: “Let me warn you: in June 2023 these dear young people will teach you the lesson you deserve.”
Meral Danis Bektas, elected HDP (opposition, pro-Kurdish), also said that “this law is a declaration of war on the truth”.
The law further provides that the Presidency is responsible for producing a “Disinformation Bulletin (…) to inform the public about disinformation and false news” every Monday.
The draft law has raised many concerns among journalists and human rights organizations, who mobilized in black masks outside Parliament earlier this month.
A dozen journalists’ associations and unions, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), had denounced the text as an attempt at government censorship.
“Turkey is going through difficult times: everyone will be affected by this law,” tweeted Thursday evening lawyer and co-director of an association for the defense of the press (MLSA), Veysel Ok, who himself has been sued several times in the past, and listed “the opposition, non-governmental organizations, associations of lawyers, journalists and ordinary citizens…”.
According to RSF rankings, Turkey will rank 149th out of 180 countries in freedom of information in 2022.
Before passing the law, the Council of Europe had denounced an “obstruction” of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
At the beginning of October he was worried about “the possible consequences” of the text, in particular the danger of “increasing self-censorship” with regard to the next elections.
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