The European Commission and the European Parliament (EP) have criticized, in separate statements, a newly adopted Internet law in Turkey, saying that the law has raised concerns that the government is tightening its grip on the Internet and people’s access to information.
The Turkish Parliament on Wednesday night approved measures that allow the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to block websites violating privacy without seeking permission from a court. The measures also force Internet providers to keep records of users’ activities for two years and make them available to authorities upon request.
EP President Martin Schulz tweeted on Thursday that the Turkish Parliament’s approval of the bill tightening control over the Internet is a step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom.
Also on Thursday, Peter Stano, spokesperson for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle, told reporters in Brussels that the new Internet law raises serious concerns. “Turkish people deserve more information and transparency, but not more restrictions,” he said. He added that the law needs to be revised in line with European standards since Turkey is a candidate for EU membership.
Stano also said Brussels is very closely monitoring how Turkey is lining up with membership criteria.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said in a written statement that the regulations approved by the Turkish Parliament toughen restrictions on the Internet that are already in place and further limit channels for free expression in the country. “I urge the Turkish authorities to reconsider [the restrictions] and amend the Internet legislation in a way that would foster freedom of expression online, not limit it further,” Muiznieks said.
His statement reads: “By extending the grounds for restricting access to websites, and significantly expanding the powers of [TİB], they go in the opposite direction to the previous recommendations of my Office to Turkey regarding freedom of expression on the Internet. They raise new concerns in terms of compatibility with European human rights standards on freedom of expression and freedom of the media, data protection, as well as access to effective domestic remedies when these rights are violated. The hasty and opaque manner in which these amendments have been pushed through the Parliament, without any genuine consultation of the major stakeholders, is also regrettable.”