Turkish parliament passes 'disinformation law' tightening control on internet media

The Turkish parliament has passed the "censorship bill” seeking up to three years in jail for those spreading so-called "disinformation" on the internet.

Duvar English

The Turkish parliament on late Oct. 13 passed the bill that criminalizes so-called “disinformation” spread online, which the opposition deemed as “censorship law.”

Presented by the ruling coalition of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), one of the most controversial articles of the bill is Article 29 which talks about the “struggle against disinformation."

“If a person spreads false information with regards to the country's domestic and external security, public order and general health in a way that that is suitable to disrupt the public peace, with the purpose of creating concern, fear or panic among the people, they will be sentenced to between one and three years,” the relevant article reads.

Online news outlets will be required to remove “false” content, and the government may block access to their websites more easily.

While the debates on the bill were continuing at the parliament (TBMM), AKP lawmaker Ahmet Özdemir on Oct. 13 claimed that US officials said that this bill is very similar to their regulations.

“We talked about this law and especially Article 29 with the officials from the United States who were interested in this issue. This regulation will set an example for many countries. So they wanted to talk to us because they were curious about it. We explained the content of this law, especially Article 29, to the Americans. In the end, they said 'Our law on disinformation and your law exactly match',” he said.

“Our claim is this - we told them, they accepted this as reasonable - the subject of this crime cannot be members of the press. Because no member of the press, does not publish a reporting knowing that it is untrue, knowing that it will arouse indignation in the society, that it will threaten the society, the public safety, the internal and external security of the country,” he further added.

"I refer to the conscience of our beloved nation every lawmaker who raises their hand against this devastating law of tyranny, which is marketed as 'Combating Disinformation.' But no matter what you do, you will not silence our nation! You will not be able to rule our country with fear, oppression and prohibitions!" the opposition right-wing İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener tweeted before the law was passed.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had announced that they will apply to the Constitutional Court (AYM) when the law passes.

On the other hand, American political scientist Ian Bremmber said in a tweet that "Turkey’s parliament passes law that sets jail terms for those spreading ‘false’ information online. Americans, try not to take the constitution for granted."