New Internet bill to pave way for direct censorship [Cihan News Agency (Turkey)]
(Cihan News Agency (Turkey) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- A highly controversial bill regulating Internet use was adopted by the Turkish Parliament late on Wednesday with a majority of votes. Dailies reported that the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB), which is a state body, will be granted a great deal of power with the new bill, such as deciding, without a court order being issued, what "harmful" content should be removed from a website because of privacy violations.
It is expected that the process for blocking a website will be able to be completed within four hours. However, appealing TIB's orders must be done by taking a legal case to court, which will take two days to reach a verdict. Internet service providers will be fined while Internet access providers will be sentenced to prison if they do not remove content that is deemed illegal. Another article in the bill allows for the recording and saving of Internet users' browsing histories for up to two years. The move has raised concerns over the government's increasing encroachment into people's private lives as well as into the different mediums through which people can express their social and political opinions. Although the bill has not yet been approved by President Abdullah Gül, both local and international civil rights organizations expressed their concerns regarding the wide restrictions being introduced by it. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which called on Gül to veto the bill, was among them.
Bugün daily columnist Nazli Ilicak wrote on Friday that currently a person who claims to have their privacy violated on a website first has to contact the website's owner, and in case they cannot contact the owner, they can apply to the Internet service provider of the website and demand the content be removed. The Internet content provider or the Internet service provider have to comply with the demand in two days after the complaint is filed, Ilicak explained. If the process takes longer than two days, the demand is presumed to have been rejected and then the person is entitled to bring a legal case to a criminal court of peace in 15 days for the content to be lifted, according to Ilicak. She added that the judge of the criminal court of peace has to rule on the case in three days. "As per the new bill, the person claiming to have had their privacy violated online can directly go to a criminal court of peace to get access to a website blocked. If the judge decides that the violation cannot be stopped by blocking access to the URL with the content in question, then he/she can rule that the whole website should be blocked. Therefore, the new bill can lead to censorship not only on a report violating privacy, but an entire website," Ilicak wrote. She also pointed out that the European Court of the Human Rights (ECtHR) previously said that the freedom of expression is already being infringed on because of the vague definition of "obscenity" in the Internet law.
Vatan daily's Okay Gönensin regarded the new bill on Internet as a "law of censorship" in his Friday column. "Defending censorship on the Internet is not any different from defending censorship in dailies, magazines, television and radio broadcasts. This mentality can even lead to summoning books on an administrational order. This is a severely dangerous mentality and can only be put onto a 'list of shame.' We can get rid of this shame. President Gül can veto the bill, explaining its setbacks clearly, and the government can correct its mistake," Gönensin continued.
GÜNAY HILAL AYGÜN (Cihan/Today's Zaman)
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