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Draft bill risks stifling Internet freedom

(BIANET/IFEX) - 14 November 2011 - The Alternative Information Association drew attention to an amendment in the Press Law regulating the online media and warned that the new change risks placing the internet under official control. According to the association, the work on the draft bill should be made public.

In a statement made by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on 5 November, he announced that preparatory steps to include online media under the mandate of the Press Law (No.5187) have begun. The draft bill is anticipated to be signed into law in January 2012.

Arinc declared that the draft bill was being prepared in co-operation with associations related to internet media. The politician explained that "[t]he people working for these portals will hold the yellow press card. The portals will probably benefit from advertising revenues. Whatever the terms 'newspaper' and 'reporter' mean in periodicals or the press, whatever conditions are required for the press card and however the advantages it provides will be used - the reprimands and sanctions of the Press Law will all be valid for internet news portals."

The draft bill defines an internet news site as "a temporary publication that presents news or comments with audio and visual content in the internet environment as defined by Law No.5651 on Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of Such Publication".

The Alternative Information Association said in an announcement that the draft bill that is based on this definition risks being easily applied to a wide spectrum of online publications that would not be limited to electronic newspapers but also include social media. Furthermore, the association expressed concern that the draft bill was designed within the scope of Law No.5651, which has been used to shut down many internet sites in the past.

The association criticized the fact that the draft bill has not yet been presented to the public and that only certain associations were involved in the process. The Alternative Information Association urged the government to announce the regulation to the public and carry out the work on it in a transparent manner.

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