Digital censorship bill seeks to  'protect freedoms,’ says ruling AKP

A leading Turkish government official has defended the country’s newly-proposed digital censorship law, saying the bill aims to prevent the restriction of freedom of expression and the press, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.

The parliamentary group deputy chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Mahir Ünal said the ruling alliance had proposed the bill, which foresees jail sentences for anyone who is deemed to have publicly disseminated false information, in a bid to “curb restrictions on freedom of expression, opposition and media freedoms.’’

The AKP and its nationalist ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Friday presented legislation to parliament introducing jail sentences of between one and three years for persons spreading so-called fake news on the internet. 

The move is part of the Turkish government’s years-long crackdown on the media, which gained momentum with the ushering in of the full presidential system of government in 2018.

“Similar regulations are being implemented in Europe,’’ Ünal said, noting that Turkey is seeking to deem “disinformation as a crime against public peace and not against individuals,” which proves that the government is not aiming to curb freedom of expression.

“Disinformation is a problem that threatens all of us. And it is the judiciary that will decide on whether individual acts are a crime,” the AKP official added, dismissing claims that the government is seeking to silence citizens.

Turkey ranks 149th of 180 countries for media freedom, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in an annual report published in May. Authoritarianism was gaining ground in Turkey, threatening media pluralism, and all possible means were used to undermine critics, according to the organisation.

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