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Both the European Union and the Council of Europe have also called for the law to be withdrawn.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  Turkey’s main business confederation has also called for the law to be withdrawn.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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid