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Turkish Parliament Approves Controversial Media Bill - 2002-05-15

Turkey's parliament has approved a controversial media bill that critics say will curtail press freedom. Turkey's parliament approved the new media bill after hours of stormy debate.

Under the new law, Turkey's media owners will be permitted to bid for government contracts. Critics say this will make newspaper and television owners more vulnerable to government pressure - and in their quest for lucrative government contracts - less likely to criticize the state.

Another controversial section in the new law requires internet sites to submit pages to government censors each time they are posted or updated. Internet providers have protested the move by blacking out their home pages and shutting down their services for a day.

The new law makes no change in existing bans on broadcasting in the Kurdish language. The European Union is demanding that Turkey end such bans as one of the pre-conditions for beginning membership negotiations with the government in Ankara. An EU spokesman in Brussels termed the law a step backward for Turkey's democratic reforms.

The head of the Turkish government broadcasting watchdog agency called passage of the law a black day for Turkish democracy.

Turkey's president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, vetoed the bill when it was first approved by the parliament last year. He said the proposal could lead to a monopoly in the Turkish media, which is largely controlled by two owners, Aydin Dogan and the Uzan family.

Under the constitution, Turkey's president is powerless to block the law for a second time, but he can appeal for its annulment by the Constitutional Court. The court could take months if not years to deliver its verdict.