TÜSIAD: Amendment to Internet law worrisome [Cihan News Agency (Turkey)]
(Cihan News Agency (Turkey) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSIAD) has said a planned amendment to the Internet law as part of an omnibus bill being negotiated by the parliamentary Planning and Budget Commission could pave the way for an increase in Internet censorship, calling the amendment worrisome.
In a press statement on Monday, the association stressed that the draft amendment does not provide solutions to obtaining more balanced and appropriate decisions to block Internet access. "The amendment should be cleared of provisions that will negatively affect fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the growing Internet-related economy [in Turkey]," the statement said.
The amendment to Law no. 5651 on cybercrimes was recently introduced by ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Zeynep Karahan Uslu. According to the changes, which were included in the omnibus bill by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, the transportation, maritime affairs and communications minister as well as the head of the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) will be able to block websites without obtaining a court order.
"The continuous debates in our country, with a tendency towards censorship and prohibition of the Internet which has a significant effect on access and the spread of knowledge, contradict our aims of being a knowledge society. We hope that Parliament will amend the draft by taking the opinions of NGOs, academicians and Internet partners into consideration," said TÜSIAD in the statement.
The bill also includes a measure that allows for the recording of Internet users' browsing histories and saves them for up to two years. "In this way, the infrastructure for the countrywide profiling of citizens will be established," Emrehan Halici, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), said at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday.
The move has raised concerns over the government's increasing encroachment into people's private lives as well as into the different mediums which people can express their social and political opinions.
"The government is making an effort to silence the Internet and social media, just as it did with the media following the [recent] corruption operation," Halici added.
As per the amendment, webpages and video footage that violates the privacy of individuals over the Internet will be blocked within four hours, while the courts are expected to announce a verdict on such issues within 48 hours. The TIB has been bestowed the right, with the authorization of the transportation, maritime affairs and communications minister, to block a given webpage should problems arise when it is too late in terms of protecting privacy and personal rights.
The move is seen by many people as an attempt to control Internet tools to prevent dissidents and citizen journalists from sharing video footage regarding any social or political activity.
During the Gezi Park protests, which rocked the country at the beginning of summer last year, the extensive use of social media by protesters to communicate with one another seems to have pushed the government to seek tougher rules for the Internet. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had described Twitter at the time as being a nuisance.
(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CIHAN
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