Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Restrictions on Free Speech In Turkey

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor “New Turkish Internet Regulations Signal further Restrictions On Freedom Of Speech”

Turkey recently enacted regulations for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that require all commercial ISPs to block access to illegal content and use government-approved filters to prevent users from going to undesirable websites. Further, commercial ISPs will now have to record the details of which website each of their subscribers visited in the past year.

Amazingly, few Turks are aware of the new regulations because of the small mount of coverage in the Turkish media. Turkish citizens aware of the regulations are upset at the limits on their freedom of speech and privacy. One citizen went so far to say “Turkey is becoming a police state.”

Previous regulations required Tukish ISPs to prevent access to certain websites.
Currently, all the banned websites are associated with views that oppose official Turkish ideology, rather than explicitly inciting violence. In addition, internet café owners have been responsible for stopping users from accessing illegal sites since March 2007—but this used to require a judicial order. Now, all internet subscribes with have their internet use monitored.

The new regulations reflect a movement towards “re-imposition of the draconian restrictions on privacy and freedom of expression that were once common in Turkey.” As Turkey made its recent push towards EU membership many of the restrictions were erased, but as chances of membership have decreased the restrictions have crept back in. In particular, the EU wants Turkey to abolish a rule that makes it illegal to criticize “Turkishness” (a broad term allowing enforcement over a number of areas). The Turkey Justice Minister recently declared the rule would not be abolished but simply amended. The article also describes a number of other examples of government restriction on speech, including two incidents with YouTube.

Questions for discussion: Do you think Turkey’s most recent limits on sppech are a direct result of their chances for EU membership declining? If not, what other factors explain Turkey’s regression?

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