Freedom House’s latest report, released on Tuesday, indicated that internet freedom in Turkey has declined over the past decade. The report highlights that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have enacted laws that increase censorship and criminalise online speech.
The report draws attention to the country’s dubbed ‘disinformation’ law, ratified late last year, which imposed harsh prison sentences for the dissemination of information considered false, or fake news. Critics argue that the law was used to silence political opposition and critical journalists ahead of the May 2023 elections.
Online censorship has become widespread in Turkey, websites, articles, and social media posts are frequently blocked or removed. Online troll networks amplify pro-government disinformation, and journalists, activists, and social media users continue to face legal charges over online content.
Washington-based Freedom House assessed internet freedom in Turkey based on ‘access barriers’, ‘content restrictions’, and ‘user rights violations’. The country scored 30 out of 100 variables, placing it in the ‘not free’ category.
In a related development, a Turkish court has restricted access to a 2021 report on internet censorship in Turkey, published by the Freedom of Expression Association’s EngelliWeb initiative. The report disclosed that in 2021 Turkish courts blocked access to more than 107,000 websites and domains, predominantly over alleged violations of personal rights involving government officials, including President Erdoğan, his son, and members of the ruling party.