Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stifling Media Could Affect Turkey's European Integration, Alliance With US - Freedom House

Turkish Police fire water cannon at protests against internet bill (CPJ)


As Turkey continues the crackdown on free speech by targeting journalists and media organisations, as well as stifling internet freedom through legislative amendments, the New York-based Freedom House published, Monday, a report on curbs on media freedom over the past year, but especially following the corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.



Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media and Power in Turkey says controlling free debate within the country is not only “further alienating citizens and could potentially threaten the country’s stability,” but “could also put at risk Turkey’s integration with Europe and its strong alliance with the United States.”

“The crisis in Turkey’s democracy is not a future problem,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House and a co-author of the report. “The media face tremendous pressure from the government, and the government now has widened its attacks to other institutions.”

The corruption scandal unleashed a new wave of protests in which media organisations and journalists were targeted. “New anti-government demonstrations in connect with a major corruption scandal in late December saw more police violence. A dozen journalists were injured by police while covering the protests. The Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), which said journalists’ equipment was also destroyed, has demanded a judicial investigation,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF).

On January 17, eight TV stations were issued a warning by the government that they were violating “presumption of innocence” because of their disclosures about the corruption scandal that allegedly involves senior government politicians. “Shortly after the first arrests of high-level suspects on 17 December, the eight TV stations broadcast images of bundles of foreign currency and the shoeboxes allegedly used to store bribes – details that were widely reported in the rest of the Turkish media,” said RSF.

Meanwhile, triggered by the same embarrassment, the Turkish parliament was scheduled to vote on a new Bill on February 3 that would censor further already restrictive internet freedom in the country. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the amendments to Law 5651, “would allow the government to block individual URLs without prior judicial review, mandate Internet data retention for periods of up to two years, and consolidate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into a single association, among other changes.”

Describing the alarming web of censorship contemplated in the amendments Geoffrey King, CPJ’s internet advocacy coordinator said, “[a]s Turkey’s Alternative Informatics Association member Ahmet Sabanc─▒ told Index on Censorship, URL blocking would require the government to rely on deep packet inspection, a particularly intrusive form of online surveillance, to help ensure the effectiveness of its new approach.”

The Freedom House report, cataloguing the ever-growing restriction on the media, including wiretapping journalists covering national security stories, referred to “The government is also threatening the separation of powers by putting the judiciary, including criminal investigations, under direct control of the Ministry of Justice. The crisis of democracy in Turkey is not a future problem—it is right here, right now.”

Click here to read the Freedom House Report

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