ANKARA - Stating that the Disinformation Law is a "law of censorship", representatives of press organisations warned that freedom of the press will detoriorate.
The 40-item "Bill of law on the Amendment of the Press Law and Some Laws" tabled at the Parliament by the AKP and MHP was accepted by the Parliamentary Justice Committee. If the law, which the opposition says will be used for "censorship and silencing the society", passes the Plenary Session, the authority to issue press cards will be given to the Directorate of Communications. The authority of the Press Advertisement Agency (BİK) and the Information Technologies and Communications Agency (BTK) will be increased. A new definition of crime is introduced into the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) within the scope of Article 29, which is the most controversial article in the bill. In this context, a new type of crime added with the allegation of "spreading misleading information to the public" which imposes prison sentences on journalists and social media users. In addition, BTK will be able to request information from communication platforms. Serious sanctions are also imposed on social media network providers.
The Plenary Session discussions of the proposal were postponed to the new legislative period, as a result of the objections of both the opposition parties and the professional journalists' organisations against the law proposal, which also includes interferences with the freedom of press and expression.
Contemporary Journalists Association (CGD) Chair Can Güleryüz and Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions(DİSK) Press-Business Central Anatolia Regional Turgut Dedeoğlu evaluated the content of the bill.
OPPRESSION AND CENSORSHIP WILL INCREASE
Stating that the law proposal will increase the existing pressure and censorship, Contemporary Journalists Association Chair Güleryüzlü said: "This will pave the way for arbitrary practices against freedom of thought and expression. The proposal is against the decisions of the 28th article in the Constitution, which includes the provision 'The press is free, it cannot be censored', and the 10th article of the European Convention on Human Rights, under which Turkey is also a signatory, under the heading 'freedom of expression', and the Constitution and various decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
'EVERY NEWS STORIES CAN BE CRIME”
Adding that the law will hinder the thoughts and ideas of those who share about the government in social media, Güleryüzlü said: “The professional group that will be most subject to the regulation is journalists. If every news they write disturbs the government, they will be punished by being included in the scope of this regulation. It is inevitable that especially article 29 of the proposal will turn into a tool to blame those who engage in critical and investigative journalism. The accusation of 'disturbing the public peace' in the aforementioned article is appropriate for an ambiguous and arbitrary interpretation. In this respect, all kinds of disturbing news stories will be prevented and punished as desired within the scope of the accusation of 'disrupting public order and peace, general health’.”
Stating that after the bill was introduced, they met with the parties in the Parliament and voiced their objections, Güleryüzlü said: “We have insisted that the regulation will take Turkey to an even darker point(?) in the field of freedom of expression and press, which is already very backward. Considering that the problems to be experienced will not only cover journalists, but will affect almost every part of the society in some way, we have come together with democratic non-governmental organisations and we will continue to do so.”
THE LAW SERVES THE INTERESTS OF THE AKP
DİSK Press-Business Regional Representative Turgut Dedeoğlu said: “The disinformation law will be a law that will pave the way for the AKP government and its media. When we look at the law, there is nothing good and useful in it. It is one of the biggest obstacles to freedom of the press. The disinformation law will create a big obstacle to the free press.”
Stating that the press cards will be given to journalists working in the internet media, but censorship and self-censorship will begin in the case of criminal sanctions to be applied, Dedeoğlu said: “Within the scope of social media, if you went to a news story or made a statement while you were passing by, or if you report on an AKP MP committing corruption, it will be considered a crime. With the law, journalists will be punished 3 times more.”
‘ALL JOURNALISTS SHOULD BE ORGANISED FOR THEIR RIGHTS’
Underlining that journalists should be more organized with the law, Dedeoğlu said, “Journalists have to be more organized from now on. This is one of the things the government fears most to go out on the street, to seek justice. We need to make our voices heard not through press releases, but through more effective organizational work.”