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Last night, the Turkish parliament approved a law punishing the spread of what is considered deception, with a maximum prison sentence of three years. Critics talk about the censorship law, which aims to further restrict press freedom and criticize the government.
The new law criminalizes the “deliberate sharing of misleading information that endangers security, public order, and public health.” The government says it wants to end the spread of fake news.
Anyone convicted of spreading “disinformation” on the Internet faces up to three years in prison. This includes not only spreading fake news on social media, but also sharing posts and news of others that the Turkish authorities classify as fake news. Penalties may be higher if this news is spread through an anonymous account.
Criminalization of the press
A group of 22 international organizations campaigning for freedom of expression and freedom of the press are sounding the alarm about the law. According to the organizations, the law will lead to censorship of information on the Internet and “criminalization of the press.”
Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 countries in this year’s Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. International organizations fear that the new law will affect press reporting in the run-up to next year’s Turkish elections.
Turkish opposition parties also expressed their anger at the new law last night. Turkish parliamentarian Burak Erbi smashed his phone with a hammer in protest. “If this law is passed, you can jailbreak your phone this way,” he said. “You don’t have to use it anymore.”
Before the law was passed yesterday, journalists, press freedom watchers and the Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe, criticized the proposal. According to the advisory body, the new law threatens freedom of expression and could harm the press in Turkey. The committee demanded that the bill be dropped, but it was not followed up.
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