AKP concerned about potential constitutional breach of freedom expression by social media bill

The ruling AKP is worried a new social media regulation that it is currently drafting might be potentially contradictory to the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression, the daily Cumhuriyet reported on Sep. 3. The new bill plans to impose prison sentences for social media posts that are deemed "to be spreading fake news and misinformation."

Duvar English

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies emphasized during a Sept. 1 meeting that a new social media regulation they are drafting should not contradict the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression, the daily Cumhuriyet reported on Sep. 3.

Accordingly, the establishment of a council consisting of legal experts might be on the agenda to decide how the upcoming penalties will be imposed. 

Drafted after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced his party would launch a "truth operation" against fake news he claimed the opposition dispersed, the bill foresees prison sentences for persons accused of spreading "disinformation" on social media. 

Party officials reportedly debated in a meeting on Sep. 1 about how disinformation suspects would be prosecuted, noting that the repercussions can not be in contradiction to the constitution.

The constitution's 26th article titled "Freedom of Expression and Dissemination of Thought" states that all persons have the right to express and disperse their thoughts and opinions in words, writing, images or other media. 

"This right includes the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas without interference from official authorities. This provision does not preclude subjecting transmission by radio, television, cinema, and similar means to a system of licensing," reads the article. 

The right granted in the relevant constitutional article also refers to the criticism of political figures, but excludes "terrorist acts," a definition which has been liberally interpreted by the ruling AKP to prosecute thousands of people in the country. 

The AKP bill foresees the establishment of a Social Media Directorate to monitor the constitutionality of any prosecution, even though the office would not be operating as an independent entity.