Turkey Tightens the Noose on Freedom of Speech

It should have surprised no one when another Turkish journalist was fired this past weekend for criticizing the government.  Yeni Safak columnist Murat Aksoy commented on CNN Turk that “the state has collapsed and the government has not been able to handle the crisis well” on January 10.  He was fired the next day.

What is potentially far more damaging to what is left of freedom of speech in Turkey than the silencing of dissident voices in the press is a draft law in the Turkish Parliament to increase surveillance and censorship of the internet.

Hurriyet Daily News, reporting on the Turkish Industry and Business Association’s concerns over the proposed legislation, notes,

  • The draft law will permit officials to limit keywords more easily, meaning access to videos on video-sharing websites such as YouTube that include keywords deemed problematic by Turkish authorities will be blocked.

  • All individuals’ Internet records, including details about what sites they have visited, which words they have searched for on the web and what activity they have engaged in on social networking websites, will be kept for one or two years, according to the draft law.

  • Web providers will also be forced to become members of a new Internet union to be formed under the control of government

Suggestive of the government’s position, Prime Minister has called  twitter “the worst menace to society.” Yet the internet has been one of the few places where Turks have been able to find news outside the highly controlled Turkish media.

As the current political crisis continues, freedom of speech in Turkey seems destined to be one of its chief casualties.

Bill Jones, Chair Turkey Co-Group, Amnesty International USA.

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