Turkey is turning itself into a role model for Orwellian internet censorship which will bring it just behind China in the Internet freedom stakes.
Turkish MPs adopted the new Internet legislation which is part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crack down on freedom of expression, access to information and investigative journalism.
Erdogan is frantically trying to keep control of Turkey after a deeply damaging corruption probe entangling some of his closest allies. The last thing he wants is people talking about what he is doing on Facebook.
Of course, opposition MPs blasted the bill as “censorship,” but they do not have anything like the numbers to stop him. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) dominates with 319 of the 550 seats thanks to backing from the less well educated, rural Turkish constituencies.
Turkey already has hefty internet curbs in place after a controversial 2007 law that earned Turkey equal ranking with China as the world’s biggest web censor according to a Google transparency report.
A government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB), can block access to websites without court authorisation if they are deemed to violate privacy or with content seen as “insulting”.
This body will also be able to request users’ communications and traffic information from hosting providers — obliged to retain up to two years’ worth of data — without a court order.
The measures also “move Turkey away from the European Union in terms of Internet policy” and means that the country has probably given up any hope of getting into the EU.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the new powers for the TIB mean it will 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”.
Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake said that in Turkey’s EU accession talks, Brussels needed to tell Ankara such legislation is “unacceptable” and that “the rule of law and fundamental freedoms are at the centre of EU policy.”
However the Turks seem to be showing the sort of confidence they have not really had since kicking the Greeks out of Constantinople.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc claimed that there was no such thing as Internet censorship. Turks were freer compared to many other countries and there is freedom of the press. Clearly, he does not get out much or he is very stupid.
Erdogan himself blames the internet for helping people to organise protests against his glorious rule.
If you want to know what life will be like under Erdogan’s system, last week Umut Oran, deputy leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was told to remove a parliamentary question from his website.
The question, which was also banned from the media asked about recordings of phone calls involving the prime minister, his son and a minister.
Erdogan is clearly in trouble and thinks that the only way to get out of his crisis is stop people talking about it.