Exclusive: Protests Reignite In Turkey As Erdoğan Pushes Bill To Censor Internet

Search form

Exclusive: Protests Reignite In Turkey As Erdoğan Pushes Bill To Censor Internet

Exclusive: Protests Reignite In Turkey As Erdoğan Pushes Bill To Censor Internet
Tue, 2/18/2014 - by Jacob Resneck

ISTANBUL – Pressure is piling on Turkey – in the streets, from rights groups and even key allies – not to enact a far-sweeping law that would allow authorities to censor the Internet and require ISPs to keep tabs on every subscriber's browsing habits for two years.

Activists have twice taken to the streets in recent weeks chanting, singing, smashing computer equipment and ultimately clashing with teargas and water cannon-wielding riot police in a bid to keep Turkey from tightening its grip on the flow of information in the wake of last spring's violent Gezi Park protests.

"The society in Turkey has already experienced a taste of freedom last year, and there is no going back from that point any longer," said activist Gurkan Ozturan with the Pirate Party of Turkey. "Censorship is a dead investment and waste of public funds."

Human rights organizations and press freedom groups have also lined up against the bill, whose provisions allow the country's telecom authority to order ISPs to remove content within four hours or face huge fines. It also requires providers to keep up to two years' worth of browsing activity of customers.

"It's fascinating for me to see people protesting in the physical world about surveillance issues and really risking their physical well-being for the right to communicate ideas and newsworthy information," said Geoffrey King, Internet advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.

Since December, top party leaders and their business partners have been embroiled in a corruption scandal that has already caused three cabinet ministers to resign. But Turkey's government has responded by firing hundreds of prosecutors and reassigning thousands of police to effectively stop the probe in its tracks.

The government is pointing fingers at law enforcement loyal to a Pennsylvania-based Islamic sect leader who has broken ranks with the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party. But the regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not been able to refute much of the evidence showing how businessmen are able to buy favor with Turkish officials all the way up to the top.

Still, the prime minister insists that the Internet censorship bill, passed by Parliament earlier this month, is to protect children and personal privacy.

"We are not restricting anybody's freedom," Erdoğan, who is head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), said on Monday. "We are trying to protect our children from ill-intended defrauders and blackmailers."

Turkey already bans an estimated 40,000 websites. Academics say further tightening restrictions is an attempt to contain a political crisis in the run-up to this year's election season.

"It's to limit damage to the government," said Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul. "It will no longer be about protecting children from harmful content but to protect the government."

This comes as Turkey's top trading partners and strategic allies in Brussels and Washington caution that Turkey is overreaching.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on February 6 that the bill's "measures are not compatible with international standards on freedom of expression."

She added: "They also have the potential to significantly impact free expression, investigative journalism, the protection of journalist sources, political discourse, and access to information over the Internet. So those are all areas we would be concerned about."

The clock is now counting down to February 25 – the last day Turkey's President Abdullah Gül must either sign the bill into law, veto it or let it lapse without coming into effect.

Meanwhile, few have forgotten the show of state violence and media censorship that was government's response to the peaceful nationwide protests – first to preserve a park, then against Erdoğan's authoritarian rule – last spring.

"They are trying to build up a new infrastructure to surveil people and collect data about all internet users from Turkey," added King of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "This obviously has serious implications – unprecedented I would say."

Article Tabs

It seems the people of the world are factually correct when they label the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world.

In a new study released last week, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty tracked laws in 187 cities over the past five years and found an uptick in nearly every type of anti-homeless ordinance.

After winning 1.2 million votes, Spain's newest political party wants to raise minimum wages, abolish tax havens, nationalize banks rescued with public funds and establish a guaranteed minimum income.

Labeled a “hate group” by progressive social and political organizations, the Alliance has amassed a substantial track record marginalizing LGBT equality efforts and attacking women’s reproductive rights.

The Premier of the Province, Kathleen Wynn, is being given another chance to respond to growing calls from the Indigenous community to protect their Territorial Rights.

In the 80s and 90s they called them "IMF Riots" – but what the biggest international investment organizations and consultants now see happening looks a whole lot bigger.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist interviewed Harvard professor and MayDay SuperPAC founder Lessig Lawrence about his plans to break the hold of big money on American elections.

Posted 6 days 2 hours ago

A New York shell fisherman is fighting back against retribution for speaking out against environmental violations.

Posted 6 days 1 hour ago

Part 3: Chris Hedges interviewed Harvard professor and MayDay SuperPAC founder Lawrence Lessig about his plans to break the hold of big money on American elections.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago

Patient details were shared with organizations including private health insurance companies, many based in the United States.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago

The American novelist reflected on double standards for the poor and rich, and crafted a vigorous argument against U.S. engagement in World War II that speaks clearly to America's failed military ventures of the last decade.

While conventional currencies are taking a tumble there is one currency bucking the trend –- the BitCoin, which has more than doubled in value in the past few weeks.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren echoes millions of Americans with her call to see bankers stand trial for their crimes against the country's people and economy.

Residents with $150 delinquent water bills are having the tap shut off, denying them a basic human right while prominent Detroit corporations with much larger delinquent water bills are being left alone.

Techtivist Report: A Pivotal Moment for Internet Freedom

The United Nations is planning to take over the Internet. No joke.

Sign Up