World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Protest Campaign - Turkey, 10 April 2014

Protest Campaign - Turkey, 10 April 2014

Article ID:

17690

His Excellency President Abdullah Gül
President of the Republic of Turkey
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreterliği
06689 Çankaya, Ankara

Tel : (+90 312) 470 23 08
Fax : (+90 312) 470 13 16
E-mail: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr

9 April 2014

 

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to congratulate you on your recent opposition to the blocking of Twitter in Turkey and to urge you to challenge recent legislation that provides sweeping powers to censor online content.

WAN-IFRA was deeply concerned following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech on 20th March in which he vowed to “wipe out” the micro-blogging service. The following day, Twitter was officially blocked in a move described by users as a “digital coup”.

While we welcome the announcement on 4 April that the service will reopen, WAN-IFRA is concerned that such actions seriously undermine the government’s position as guarantor of essential freedoms – a position outlined in Turkey’s constitution and further enshrined by the country’s commitments to respecting international human rights standards.

The blocking of Twitter is particularly disturbing in light of recent changes to legislation governing the Internet in Turkey. A package of amendments made to Law 5651, passed by parliament on 5 February - and signed by Your Excellency on 18 February - allows the government to censor the Internet even more extensively, to monitor users and to take control of Internet Service Providers and other technical intermediaries. The law would allow unrestricted government access to private user data and make it easier for officials to block content that could arbitrarily be considered “obscene”.

Parliament’s decision on 26 February to make two amendments to the law, in the “interest of democracy” and reportedly at Your Excellency’s urging, is to be commended. That the preventive blocking of any website must now be reviewed by a judge in under 48 hours, and alterations that now mean the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB) will no longer have access to Internet users' personal data without a court ruling, are both positive signs.

However, we remain anxious regarding reports the government plans to submit further amendments to the controversial Internet Law, especially in light of the 30 March municipal election results that renewed popular support for Prime Minister Erdogan and the ruling AKP Party. A proposed new bill would drastically stretch the intelligence services' prerogatives, making it effectively impossible for them to undergo legal and journalistic investigations.

Reports suggest that, at the intelligence services’ request, and in the name of fighting terrorism and protecting national security, any public institution or legal person (including the media) could be forced to disclose data. Those who refuse could face between two and four years imprisonment. Furthermore, anyone publishing documents related to intelligence information risks up to nine years in prison.

We echo the words of our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders, who said of the new bill, “It is hard to imagine that freedom of information will ever be respected under these new repressive measures.”

Your Excellency, we regret that these latest incidents form just a small element of a wider, consistent campaign by the government of Prime Minister Erdogan to silence critics and curtail freedom of expression in Turkey. WAN-IFRA is appalled at the number of journalists who remain in Turkish prisons, and while welcoming recent releases we remind you that they should never have been punished for simply fulfilling their professional duties. We stand with Turkish journalists, journalism and media freedom groups and human rights organisations, in Turkey and internationally, in calling for the release of all journalists imprisoned because of their work.

Given Your Excellency’s outspoken resistance to the move to block Twitter, and indeed your defiance in terms of using the service to denounce the ban, we respectfully remind you of your continued responsibility to defend digital freedom in Turkey. In 2011, Your Excellency spoke out about open Internet access and communications, providing the general public with the impression that you are dedicated to digital liberties. We strongly urge you to continue to make good on that promise and support freedom of expression for all in Turkey.

We would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues in greater detail with Your Excellency and Prime Minister Erdogan, on behalf of our Turkish members and in the interests of the wider WAN-IFRA community.

 

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,

 

Sincerely,

 

Tomas Brunegård
President
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

 

Erik Bjerager
President
World Editors Forum


WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2014-04-10 13:47

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