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    Both the European Union and the Council of Europe have also called for the law to be withdrawn.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  Turkey’s main business confederation has also called for the law to be withdrawn.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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora