Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday approved the first two articles in an anti-disinformation law that critics say will be used to suppress critical journalism and free speech, Duvar news website reported.
The bill, tabled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) alliance, has passed two parliamentary commissions and was brought for discussion in parliament this week.
Among other regulations that the government says are designed to tackle the spread of false information, the core of the draft law comprises articles on the use of press cards and on prison sentences.
The second article states that individuals deemed to have published information on Turkey’s security, public order and general health “in order to create anxiety, fear or panic among the public” will face a 1–3-year prison sentence.
If passed, the draft law will also bring new regulation making it an offense to publish content that is deemed to “constitute a crime against the activities and personnel” of Turkey’s intelligence agency.
Opposition parties took the podium to oppose the law, which many see as a new attack on freedom of the press and expression, reported Diken.
Journalists’ associations and unions also slammed the draft law that would criminalise the spread of material the government considers to be disinformation, reported Euronews.
The bill will allow the government to tighten its control over the digital media by channelling more resources to pro-government online media and expanding censorship, said Sabancı Unıversıty political scientist Berk Esen in a commentary.
Adding that the new law could be used to narrow public debate on politically sensitive issues such as migration and the economic crisis, Esen noted that the atmosphere generated by such a law would lead to self-censorship.
Turkey is ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index.
As of 28 September 2022, 39 arrested journalists in Turkey still continue to work behind bars.