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Turkey: Passing of disinformation law a 'dark day for freedom of expression online'

New law could see people facing three-year jail terms for a retweet

These measures enable [the Government] to further censor and silence critical voices ahead of Turkey’s upcoming elections and beyond’ - Guney Yildiz

Responding to the Turkish parliament passing a so-called “disinformation law”, which tightens the Government’s grip over social media platforms and news websites, and criminalises the sharing of information that is deemed false, Guney Yildiz, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International, said:

“Today is yet another dark day for freedom of expression online and press freedom in Turkey.

“Coming on the heels of the Government's increased control of the media over the past few years, these new measures enable them to further censor and silence critical voices ahead of Turkey’s upcoming elections and beyond, under the guise of fighting disinformation.

“In fact, rather than ensuring information safety, the law’s vaguely defined provisions further facilitate the prosecution of those who allegedly publicly disseminate ‘false information’ and could see people facing jail terms of up to three years merely for a retweet.

“While countries do have a role in regulating online expression in line with international law, this legislation opens yet new avenues for the authorities to extend their draconian crackdown on freedom of expression and increases the chilling effect that fear of criminal prosecution brings.” 

Muzzling dissent

Journalists and unions in Turkey have condemned the law, saying it is an attempt by the Government to censor freedom of expression and restrict independent media.

Prior to the new law, social media platforms were already obliged to remove content that had been reported as offensive by individuals or the Turkish government.

When the bill was debated earlier his week, scores of journalists were reported to have gathered outside Turkey’s parliament building in Ankara, holding placards that read "No to the law of censorship" and "Free press is a condition for democracy".

The vaguely written new law describes how any person who publicly disseminates “false” information concerning the internal and external security, public order and public health of the country with the sole intention of creating anxiety, fear or panic among the public, in a manner likely to disturb public peace, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for between one and three years.

It elaborates on this, explaining that if the offence is committed by someone concealing their real identity or as part of the activities of an organisation, the sentence would be increased by half.

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