Turkey: Dangerous, Dystopian New Legal Amendments

(Istanbul) – Turkey’s parliament passed a swathe of new amendments known as the “censorship law” on October 13, 2022, introducing new abusive criminal speech offenses that further deepens online censorship and restrict access to information, ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch said today .

The timing of the legislation, months before 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections, also raises concerns that the government intends to muzzle online reporting and commentary critical of the Erdogan government in the run up to the elections.

“Taken together, the new legislation represents a draconian new chapter ahead of elections in 2023 by increasing the weapons in the government’s arsenal to enforce censorship and tighten control over social media and independent online news sites,” said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19, “With severe penalties against tech companies for failure to comply with user data and content take-down requests, the law will force tech companies to be complicit with an almost total censorship regime.”

The new legislation consists of 40 articles amending several laws, including the Internet Law, the Press Law, and the Turkish Penal Code. It makes “disseminating false information” a criminal offense with prison sentences of between one to three years. It establishes much tighter government control over online news websites. It equips the government-controlled Information and Communication Technologies Authority (Bilgi Teknolojileri ve letişim Kurumu, BTK) charged with regulating the internet, with far-reaching powers to compel social media companies to comply with requests to take down online content and hand over user data or to be subject to reduction of their bandwidth – known as “internet throttling” – if they don’t comply.

ARTICLE 19, Human Rights Watch, as well as other organizations, have extensively documented the widespread abuse of Turkish Penal Code and Anti-terrorism Law provisions to prosecute and convict

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