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Ill-defined law to control Internet publications passed, awaiting president's final approval

(BIANET/IFEX) - Law No 5651, which is concerned with "the preparation of Internet publications and crimes connected with these publications", was passed by Parliament on 4 May 2007. Should the president not veto it, it will be implemented.

The official justification of the law is that it aims to protect families and children from Internet abuse, namely encouragement of drug use, gambling or suicide, sexual exploitation, etc. It is also claimed that the rapid development of technology has meant that present laws are not comprehensive enough to deal with all possible crimes.

Until now, there has been no law on crimes relating to Internet publications. However, because the "law" has been conceived in order to deal with threats to family life and children, it does not consider the Internet environment carefully enough. This means that it does not address the issue of publication responsibility and definitions clearly. The law thus resembles unsuccessful patchwork. In the definition of the 14-article law, there is no clarity as to what "crimes" are supposed to be addressed by this law, and which by other laws.

The law stipulates that reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed will lead to blocked access, and it is here that there is a problem. The decision to block access will be made by a judge during the investigation, and by a court during prosecution. In urgent cases, a public prosecutor can also decide to block access for 24 hours, pending approval by a judge. In addition, the Ministry of Telecommunication has been assigned responsibility for controlling Internet content; in some cases it is also entitled to block access. If it is able to identify the publishers, the ministry files a complaint with the Republican Prosecutor. Furthermore, the ministry is entitled to penalise Internet providers who do not block access to a website, initially with a fine, but after non-compliance with closure of the provider.

It is to be expected that critics of the law and proponents of freedom of publication on the Internet will face accusations of not wanting to protect children against prostitution and sexual exploitation.

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