TURKISH AUTHORITIES STEP UP CENSORSHIP OF INTERNET WEBSITES
By Gareth Jenkins
Friday, October 3, 2008
In the early hours of October 4, 2005, Turkey officially began accession negotiations with the EU. Over the previous four years, in order to secure a date for the opening of negotiations, successive Turkish governments had eased many of the restrictions on freedom of expression in the country. Since October 2005, however, the process has ground to a halt. Indeed, in some areas, it appears to have gone into reverse, particularly in the increasing attempts to censor the Internet.
The Turkish authorities have long sought to block Internet users in Turkey from accessing websites associated with militant groups that espouse violence, such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Over the last 18 months, however, there has been a rapid rise in the censorship of websites, purely because they contain material that expresses values or opinions deemed unsuitable for the Turkish public.
Until May 2007, there was no legal framework in Turkey specifically designed to regulate the content of Internet websites. In practice, the judicial system tended to apply the same laws that were used to regulate traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television channels. On May 4, 2007, however, the Turkish parliament passed Law No. 5651, which was specifically designed to regulate Internet content and prevent websites from being used for crimes such as “encouraging suicide,” “the sexual exploitation of children,” “facilitating the use of narcotics,” “obscenity,” “prostitution,” and “gambling” (Law No. 5651 of May 4, 2007, published in the Official Gazette No. 26530 of May 23, 2007). The law also provided for the prevention of access to websites that violated other Turkish laws, such as anti-terrorism legislation or the law that forbids insulting the memory of the Turkish Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Law No. 5816 of July 25, 1951, published in the Official Gazette No. 7872 of July 31, 1951). In addition, under Article 24 of the Turkish Civil Code (Turkish Ministry of Justice website, http://www.adalet.gov.tr), individuals can apply for access to be blocked to a website that they feel is “infringing on their personal rights.”
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