Turkish Parliament adopts controversial Internet bill

Photo: Turkish Parliament adopts controversial Internet bill / Turkey

Turkey's Parliament adopted late Feb. 5 a new Internet legislation roundly criticised for implementing measures that could potentially further restrict access to the web Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The measures were adopted by the General Assembly after a tense session during which opposition MPs blasted the bill as "censorship."

The bill includes controversial arrangements concerning the protection of privacy on the Internet, such as granting the president of the Directorate of Telecommunication (TİB) the authority to make decisions on his own initiative to block access to related broadcasting in the event of appeals concerning violation of the right to private life.

The new arrangements also caused serious concerns as they would mandate data retention of between one and two years.

The government maintains that the draft bill is designed to "protect the family, children and youth from items on the Internet that encourage drug addiction, sexual abuse and suicide." It also says that similar laws exist in Western countries and rejects comparisons to China, notorious for its drastic censorship of the Internet.

The bill also comes as the government faces massive graft allegations and strong criticism for having undertaken works on a judicial bill that increased the executive's grasp over the judiciary.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the new powers for the TİB mean it would be able to "gather communications data about all Internet users without any legal limits or restrictions," with users "never... able to know when and how this information is gathered."

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also released a statement warning that the measures on will further undermine press freedoms if it passes into law, describing the move as a "slide into Internet authoritarianism" in a country that is the "the leading jailer of journalists worldwide."

Reporters Without Borders said the aim is "to reinforce cyber-censorship, government control of the Internet and surveillance."

Turkey's Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) was also critical, saying the proposals "conflict with the principles of checks and balances" and would increase censorship and deter investors.

For critics, last week gave "a taste of things to come" when Umut Oran, deputy leader of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), was told by the TIB to remove a parliamentary question from his website.

The question, which media were also told to not report on, was close to the bone for the government, as it asked about purported recordings of phone calls involving the prime minister, his son and a minister.

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