Turkish authorities push for internet censorship

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The Turkish Council of Information and Communication Technology (TIB) introduced a new regulation on the “Use of the Internet Safety Rules and Procedures”, aimed at “protecting the families” from pornographic content. The new legislation is expected to enter into force on 22 August, as Euractiv Turkey reported.

According to the regulation, all internet users will have to choose between one of the four filter options for online content: “family”, “children”, “domestic” and “standard” packages. Government officials commented that the measure is needed for better protection from illegal pornographic materials for Turkish families, especially for minors. However, the non-governmental sector in the country strongly opposed the new legislation, arguing that it is aimed at disguising actual internet censorship and illegal, ridiculous practices. The critics of the proposal add that there is neither clarity on which websites can be banned and for what reason, nor is it clear how this measure will be implemented in technical aspects.
In addition, on April 27 the Turkish authorities presented a list of 138 keywords which are to be banned from use in internet in Turkey to internet providers and web hosting companies. As Turkish journalists alarmed, the list contains some ridiculous words such as “free”, “pic”, “fat”, “pregnant”, and even some names such as “Adrienne” and “Haydar”.
The ban is endorsed in a directive which calls for blocking the existing websites containing such words and makes impossible the establishment of new web pages using any of the banned keywords. Still it is not clear how the legislative act will be implemented in practice.
“Ridiculous practices without any legal basis are being introduced in Turkey. Officials are trying to take Internet users from all ages under control through practices disguised as “protection of minors”, said Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of Internet law at Bilgi University, in an interview with EurActiv Turkey. Akdeniz added that the Turkish internet policies seem to become more and more in line with the ones in China, rather than the EU.
His statement confirmed the alert of the independent portal Bianet.org, according to which the programs for filtering of internet content are actually targeting the independent online media and the web pages of rights and media organizations such as the Human Right Association, the Voice of America radio station, and the newspapers Atılım and Azadiya Welat.
A notable rise of cases of censorship and violation of press freedom is being observed recently in Turkey. On March 19 around 2000 people protested against the arrest of 27 local journalists. The protest was lead by the Freedom For Journalists Platform (GOP) – an organization which unites over 90 journalist associations in Turkey. The event followed series of journalist’s protests which brought together over 8000 people.
As AEJ-Bulgaria already warned, many journalists in Turkey are threatened with arrests, court proceedings, fines and prison sentences. At the same time, the Turkish PM Erdogan denied the imprisonment of journalists because of their work and said that the 27 journalists were arrested for other reasons. Still, according to the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GOP), the real number of journalists arrested in Turkey is currently 68 and 7 of them have already been sentenced. There are ongoing court proceedings against all the others but they are still kept under arrest. Since 2009 30 other journalists have been released from arrest while waiting for their court proceedings to start. This makes the total number of journalists who have stayed in state prisons over the last two years around 90. Another 50 media professionals have been fined or received prison sentences which have been postponed for 5 years.