In what is being called its latest assault on freedom of speech, the Turkish government is drafting a bill that would make Internet censorship a lot worse for its people.
The proposed law under consideration would grant the prime minister and communication minister powers to block any site that is considered a threat to “national security and public order” without an immediate court order.
“If a situation concerning … public order and national security [arises] … the prime ministry, TİB [Telecommunications Directorate] will be able to temporarily remove content or block access,” Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Lütfi Elvan told reporters.
He added a court order would still have to be filed, however, that could be done “within 24 hours” of blocking the “objectionable” website, thereby giving the government warrantless control over the Internet.
“The judge shall announce his decision within 48 hours from the time of [action]; otherwise, the [prohibition] shall automatically be lifted.”
There are also penalties and fines up to 500,000 lira (US$215,000) for parties who fail to comply with the new conditions.
Surely this new bill, if enacted, will create more censorship problems in Turkey, where websites like Twitter and YouTube have been shut down by the government in the past.
Last year, when violent anti-government demonstrations took place after riot police attacked a peaceful sit-in organized by students to save the historical Gezi Park, state media was silenced and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister, called social media websites a “menace” for a civilized society.
Earlier this year, statewide access to YouTube was blocked which further added to the ire of the protesters.
While the government maintained the websites were closed down amid national security concerns, it was alleged that it was a ploy to cover up a leaked conversation between top officials purportedly discussing the possibility of going to war with neighboring Syria – a fact Turkish citizens thought their government ought to have clarified instead of hiding it through social media bans.
Considering how its people have responded to Internet policing and government intimidation in the past two years, Turkey should probably brace itself for a new wave of protests.