News / Middle East

Turkey's Controversial Internet Legislation Fuels Political Tensions

A man uses an umbrella as Turkish riot police fire water cannons and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators who try to march to Taksim Square in Istanbul, Feb. 8, 2014.
A man uses an umbrella as Turkish riot police fire water cannons and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators who try to march to Taksim Square in Istanbul, Feb. 8, 2014.
Dorian Jones
— Opposition parties in Turkey have called on President Abdullah Gul to veto controversial Internet restrictions that were approved last week by the country's parliament  and have increased the international community's concerns over freedoms and rights in the country
 
Gul is under mounting pressure to veto the legislation, which empowers the government to block websites without a court order and gives it access to user information for up to two years. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, called on the president to take a “position on democracy and veto the law.”

Pressure is also growing internationally.

"We are calling for the president to veto the new law," said Emma Sinclair Webb, senior Turkey researcher at the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. "It has passed through parliament very quickly without consultation, without sufficient expert input. And we feel the president now has a chance to really stand up for free speech by vetoing that law, and to uphold citizens' right to access information on the Internet and uphold the right to privacy."

Both the European Union and the Council of Europe have also called for the law to be withdrawn.

On Saturday night, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of demonstrators protesting the new Internet law.  Turkey’s main business confederation has also called for the law to be withdrawn.  

In comments widely seen as signaling unease over the restrictions, Gul last month stressed the importance of freedom of the Internet, and especially social media. But the Turkish president is also a founding member of the ruling the AK Party.

Kadri Gursel, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet and Al-Monitor website, says the president is performing a delicate political balancing act.

"Mr. Gul has cleverly positioned himself as the natural alternative to [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan from within the Islamist conservative political movement. And Mr. Gul cleverly does not do that by challenging Erdogan’s government. He is very government-friendly in signing government draft laws. He is not creating problems in terms of limiting or balancing the government’s power," said Gursel.
 
Adding to the pressure on the president, Erdogan, addressing a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, resolutely defended the new Internet law and slammed its critics.

"These regulations do not impose any censorship on the Internet; on the contrary, they make it safer and freer," he said. "Those protesting against the law are part of what he called a 'pornography lobby."
 
Erdogan also repeated a warning to the country’s business leaders, saying they will all face auditing by the tax authorities. Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Forum says that with the political temperature rising, Gul faces a critical choice.

"This will be a real yardstick of his intentions - whether he will challenge now the prime minister, Erdogan, or not," said Aktar.
 
Even if the president were to veto the Internet legislation, he would be obliged to sign it into law if the government passed it a second time unamended.  But observers argue such a veto would be politically damaging to Erdogan and likely intensify the growing opposition to the controversial legislation. 

The issue could also have consequences for this year’s presidential election, which neither the prime minister nor the president have ruled out running in.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid