Turkey: Gov’t Proposes to Allow PM to Block Internet Access

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The ruling Islamist AK party in Turkey is drafting a bill that would allow the prime minister and the communications minister to right to block access to or remove content from any website they declare as endangering “national security and public order.”

According to the new bill, these actions could be taken without a court order.

In addition, new legislation is being put forward to issue fines to any website that fails to obey court rulings to block access any site or content deemed offensive.

In February, legislation was enacted that allowed specified regulators to block websites without a court order. That legislation was broadened in September to allow Turkey’s telecommunications’ authority to shut down websites without permission.  However, the later bill was later overturned by the Constitutional Court.

After corruption allegations emerged against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the government blocked Twitter, YouTube and a variety of other sites.

At the time, Erdogan said, “We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”

At present, over 10,000 websites are blocked in Turkey because of their content. However, freedom of speech restrictions in Turkey go far beyond the internet. The Committee to Protect Journalists rates Turkey as the number one jailer of reporters worldwide, even more than North Korea, Iran and China. 

Most recently, the Turkish government ordered sweeping arrests of Turkish journalists including the editor-in-chief of the prominent opposition newspaper Zaman.

Other news in Turkey this week saw a 16-year old high school student arrested for insulting President Erdogan. The student is part of an online group called “Democrat High School Students.” In the course of a speech he made to commemorate Lieutenant Mustafa Fehmi Kubilay who was killed by a pro-sharia group in 1930, the student (identified only as M.E.A.) commented on Erdogan’s connection to corruption, bribery and theft.

The student pled not guilty, saying his intention was not to insult anyone.

“If a 16-year-old can be arrested for insulting the president, it means something is going wrong in this country,” the student’s lawyer, Baris Ispir, said, adding that this was the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic that someone the age of 16 was arrested for the crime of insulting the president.

If convicted, the student could face four years in prison.

Earlier this week, Erdogan raised the ire of critics who fear the encroachment of Islamic (sharia) law into the private sphere as well as its inherent diminishment of women’s rights. Speaking at a wedding of the son of a close associate, Erdogan told the newlyweds that the use of birth control was “treason” and had caused an entire generation to “dry up.”

"In this country, they (our opponents) have been engaged in the treason of birth control for years and sought to dry up our generation," he said adding, "One or two (children) is not enough. To make our nation stronger, we need a more dynamic and younger population. We need this to take Turkey above the level of modern civilizations."

In the same speech, Erdogan recommended having at least four children.

The topic of children is sensitive in Turkey as secularists view the underlying message of these comments with skepticism.  

In September, a prominent sheikh who has a regular platform on state-run television said that the notion of women having economic freedom should be abandoned altogether. Sheikh Omer Tugrul Inancer argued that women who work stop “obeying” their husbands, destroy their families and end up getting divorced.

The previous year, Inancer infuriated the public when he insisted that pregnant women should not be visible “out in the streets.”

Turkish media created a storm this week when they reported that Inancer’s daughter, Eren Inancer Lus, was appointed to a top executive positions in one of Turkey's most prominent cellular companies.  

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Tanju Bilgic said that Turkey’s bilateral ties with Egypt could “normalize if the country properly returns to democracy, if the Egyptian people’s free will is reflected in politics and social life.” 

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Bigic said in a thinly veiled reference to the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, by the military after massive protests against him, "Only if the Egyptian authority follows an inclusive and egalitarian policy will the grounds be paved to examine our blateral ties."

Turkey's President Erdogan is an avid supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist cause. He is also a top backer of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood's wing in Gaza.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org