Turkish journalist bodies call for vigil in front of Constitutional Court regarding 'disinformation law'

Turkish journalist bodies have called for a vigil in front of the Constitutional Court on Nov. 8 when the top court will discuss the application for the annulment of the “disinformation law” adopted in December. The law carries a jail sentence of up to three years for anyone who spreads “false or misleading” information, and is often used by the government to stifle dissent.

The poster for the vigil reads "We will not bow to arbitrary arrests and censorship."

Duvar English

The Press Council, the Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), the Journalists Association, the Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS), and the Media, Communication and Postal Employees Union (Haber Sen) have called for a vigil in front of the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM) building in the capital Ankara on Nov. 8 regarding the “disinformation law.”

The court on Nov. 8 will discuss the application regarding the annulment of the “disinformation law” which the parliament enacted in December. The law seeks to criminalize the spread of what the government calls “disinformation” on the internet, and carries a jail sentence of up to three years for anyone who spreads “false or misleading” information.

In 11 months, the law has mostly been used to stifle journalists who reported on corruption allegations on the government and the judiciary.

In a statement, the journalist bodies said “The whole country now knows and sees that the article 'spreading misleading information to the public', which has led to the investigation, detention and arrest of dozens of journalists for a year, leads to arbitrary accusations. Journalists, who faced three detentions, four investigations and one arrest in just three days this week, will expect the annulment of this article with a 'press vigil against censorship and arrests' before the Constitutional Court.”

“We invite all our colleagues, readers, and supporters of democracy who do not accept censorship, who defend freedom of the press and expression, to our silent protest,” they added.

Recent crackdown on prominent Turkish journalists in the last week

Tolga Şardan and Dinçer Gökçe were separately detained and charged on Nov. 1 under the so-called “disinformation law.” A court jailed Şardan after the Istanbul chief prosecutor's office opened an investigation into his reporting on the judicial system and the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT).

The government's Center for Combating Disinformation, run by the presidency's Directorate of Communications, said an article by Şardan contained disinformation and was based on a nonexistent MIT report.

An Istanbul court banned access to Şardan's article on the T24 news portal on Nov. 2.

Gökçe, a reporter at opposition channel Halk TV, was released under judicial control measures on Nov. 1.

Cengiz Erdinç, a columnist for the kisadalga.net news portal, was detained on Nov. 2 on the instructions of the Ankara chief prosecutor's office for "overt propagation of misleading information" in the western province of Balıkesir. He was later released under judicial control measures.

Left-wing daily BirGün said on Nov. 2 that the Ankara chief prosecutor's office had also launched a probe into it under the disinformation law, based upon a complaint by an owner of a construction company.