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

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, community bill of rights, Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods

Across the country, battles are raging as communities attempt to protect the air, soil and water within their borders and the safety of their residents.

prison divestment campaign, criminal justice reform, Columbia Prison Divest, Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, Dream Defenders, incarceration rates, Student Alliance for Prison Reform

Columbia Prison Divest pressured the university to dump $8 million in Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison company, as well as shares in other behemoths of the private security industry.

Barnesville, Gulfport Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Antero

A tiny town in eastern Ohio is being sued by an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company that bought more than 180 million gallons of water from the town last year.

History shows that liberals need radicals.

American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, BP, climate change denial

Oil company BP said on Monday it has stopped supporting conservative political group ALEC, becoming the latest corporation to end its membership in a group critics say works to deny the existence of climate change.

Until the federal government gets serious about bailing out America’s students and instituting free, public higher education for all who apply, America’s student debtors should refuse to make any further payments.

Posted 5 days 22 hours ago
fracking studies, anti-fracking movement, fracking ban, Real Media, Debt Resistance UK, Anti-Daily Mail week, WailOnline, Blockupy, Occupy Rupert Murdoch

Imagine a world where the 1% doesn't have a monopoly over science and news – but where we can instead think for ourselves.

Posted 6 days 19 hours ago

Indigenous women make up 4.3% of Canada's female population – but represent almost half of the number of women murdered in the country.

Posted 3 days 13 hours ago

In this week’s episode of Act Out!, Eleanor talks clowns, burning cars and the riots against austerity in Europe, while looking at the role of art in activism and giving you some tools to get started.

Posted 4 days 20 hours ago
money in politics, Citizens United, Edward Snowden, kleptocracy, surveillance programs, NSA, whistleblowers

Welcome to 1% Elections, the privatization of the State, a fourth branch of government, and the demobilization of "We the People."

Posted 5 days 21 hours ago

Until the federal government gets serious about bailing out America’s students and instituting free, public higher education for all who apply, America’s student debtors should refuse to make any further payments.

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, community bill of rights, Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods

Across the country, battles are raging as communities attempt to protect the air, soil and water within their borders and the safety of their residents.

A report that Rahm Emanuel’s administration invested money from the city teachers’ union in private equity funds run by some of the mayor’s biggest campaign donors is adding fuel to the charges that he neglects all but his wealthy backers.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, fossil fuel divestments, divestment movement

The Guardian's "Keep It In the Ground" campaign, which launched last week and already has 136,000 supporters, is asking the world's largest charity to dump its investments in firms "dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal."

Sign Up