February 7, 2014 - 14:32 AMT
Turkish controversial internet law adoption sparks concerns

The adoption of a controversial law on the regulation of Internet news portals and websites by a majority of votes in parliament has boosted people's concerns over Internet freedom and people's right of access to information.

Tayfun Sırman, head of the Internet Publishers' Association, said, “Turkey has woken up to a new morning with shame.”

In a written statement, she noted, “The judiciary has been bypassed and Internet censorship has been left to the initiative of the Telecommunications Directorate [TİB].”

According to the changes, the transportation, maritime affairs and communications minister will be able to block websites without first obtaining a court order. In addition, the TİB head will be authorized to block access to a web page on his own initiative in the event there is a request concerning the violation of the right to privacy.

Discussions during voting on the bill witnessed tense moments between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the opposition. While the AK Party voted in favor of the articles, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) blasted the bill as “censorship.” Despite a challenge from the opposition, the ruling party -- which holds the majority in Parliament with some 320 seats -- voted in the legislation.

The bill also includes a measure that allows for the recording of Internet users' browsing histories and saves them for two years. The move has raised concerns over the government's increasing encroachment into people's private lives as well as into the different mediums through which people can express their social and political opinions.

However, the protection of personal data was one of the most important promises of the government in the constitutional referendum of Sept 12, 2010.

The Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC), in a statement, said the new law should not be put into effect as it violates freedom of thought, freedom of press and protection of personal data and called on the president to veto the law.

The association also complained that the new law gives "extraordinary authority" to TİB to monitor people's Internet use.

According to the Internet bill, Internet service providers will be fined while Internet access providers will be sentenced to prison if they do not remove content that is deemed to be illegal. The bill also includes changes to Article 6, which requires all Internet service providers to become members of an association of Internet access providers that will be established in the future.

Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Umut Oran said the bill will turn the Internet in Turkey into a “portal of the prime minister.” He also said the bill violates the Constitution as it violates people's privacy. “The right to privacy will no longer exist [on the Internet]. Users' Internet traffic and content will be saved for two years. In other words, whatever you write on Facebook, the bureaucracy will be able to see it immediately, and you will be monitored, followed, recorded and profiled,” Oran noted.

CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Engin Altay said the bill will render the law in Turkey null and void.