22nd Oct 2016

EU urges Turkey to change internet law

  • Turkey last year topped world rankings for jailing journalists (Photo: mx.)

Turkey's crackdown on the internet raises "serious concerns" and "needs to be revised in line with European standards," the European Commission has said.

The commission's spokesman on enlargement, Peter Stano, on Thursday (6 February) noted that the new regime “would lead to a further reduction in internet freedom.”

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  • (Photo: Bombardier)

"Turkish people deserve more freedom of information and transparency, not more restrictions," he added.

The bill also attracted criticism from European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who described the bill on Twitter as a “step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom.”

The law, which was passed by the Turkish parliament late on Wednesday, allows a government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB), to block access to websites without a court order if they are deemed to violate privacy or seen as having "insulting” content.

Personal browser histories will also be kept for two years, with no judicial review of the measures.

The new law amends 2007 legislation which was used to stop Turkish people from using YouTube for two years and which caused the shutdown of thousanfs of websites.

The European Court of Justice in Strasbourg in 2012 already ruled the old law to be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

For its part, the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has warned that the latest amendments put "a disproportionate burden on internet service and hosting providers,” and would harm investigative journalism by potentially exposing reporters’ sources.

At the start of Turkey’s parliamentary debate on Wednesday, opposition lawmaker Hasan Oren compared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Adolf Hitler.

“When you came to power you talked of enhancing democracy in Turkey, Now you are trying to implement fascism … Remember that Adolf Hitler used the same methods when he rose to power,” Oren said.

The crackdown is the latest in a series of measures designed to quash a corruption affair involving Erdogan’s inner circle.

He already faced EU rebukes in January for sacking hundreds of police officers and prosecutors investigating the allegations and for putting judicial appointments under political control.

More broadly, Turkey last year topped world rankings for jailing journalists.

The EU candidate country recently restarted accession talks after a long pause.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier this week urged the EU to also open talks on chapters relating to justice and human rights issues in light of Erdogan’s actions, but Cyprus is vetoing the move amid its 40-year-old frozen conflict with Turkey.

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