Erdinç ÇelikkanANKARA / Hürriyet
‘The TİB president will have the authority to decide whether there is any violation of the right to private life will cause the directorate to function, instead of the judiciary,’ says TÜSİAD, headed by Muharrem AA Photo
Turkey’s top business group has warned that a bill including controversial arrangements concerning the “protection of private life” on the Internet might have negative results on human rights, in a statement sent to the Family and Social Policies Ministry, which proposed the bill.
“The fact the Directorate of Telecommunications (TİB) president will have the authority to decide whether there is any violation of the right to private life will cause the directorate to function, instead of the judiciary. This will conflict with the principle of checks and balances,” said the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), in its letter sent to the ministry yesterday.
TÜSİAD’s letter was sent on the same day when Parliament’s General Assembly resumed debating the omnibus bill, which includes a number of controversial arrangements. These include a measure to grant the president of the TİB the authority to make a decision on his own initiative to block access to a page, in the event of an appeal concerning violations of the right to private life.
TÜSİAD said the current laws already protect the right to private life, and added that introducing another law “blocking access to content for the protection of private life,” brings about certain problems in terms of human rights. The bill will increase censorship on the Internet by giving the president of TİB the authority to directly block access to broadcasting for the protection of private life on the Internet in cases when delays are inconvenient, the letter said.
“Violations of the law must be decided by the judiciary. Article 9, A (which allows the TİB president the access to block Internet content) must be removed from the bill,” it stated.
According to the same bill, any person who maintains that his or her personal rights are violated on the Internet will be able to directly appeal to a court, while a “Union of Internet Access Providers” will also be established.
“The current law on the Internet, numbered 5651, says in its Article 9 that one has to apply to content providers in order to remove content from the Internet, while the draft law says one can apply to court without applying to the content provider first. The judge will be able to give a decision to remove the content or block access within four hours, without giving the content provider the right to object to the decision. This article violates the right to the defense of the content and hosting providers,” said TÜSİAD in its letter.
It also warned that these regulations would negatively affect investors in the Internet sector.
The controversial draft bill has also been criticized by European officials and groups.
Meanwhile, Marietje Schaake, member of the European Parliament, wants the European Commission to take a strong position against the proposed Internet legislation in Turkey.
“These new laws strengthen the grip of the Turkish government on what can and cannot be published online and they restrict access to information. Freedom of speech and press freedom are already under a lot of pressure and Turkey has the largest tendency to imprison journalists. Since 2007, many websites have been blocked. The European Commission needs to show rule of law and fundamental freedoms are at the center of EU policy. The Gezi Park protests last summer have shown the Turkish people long for freedom and democracy, we must not leave them standing in the cold,” said Schaake.
“In the context of accession talks, the Commission needs to make clear this kind of legislation is unacceptable and violates the criteria that Turkey will eventually have to adhere to [Copenhagen criteria],” Schaake added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has claimed the new bill will further undermine freedom of the press if it is passed into law.
“The Turkish Parliament is on the verge of voting on radical censorship measures that, if approved, would allow the government to block individual URLs without prior judicial review, mandate Internet data retention for periods of up to two years, and consolidate Internet Service Providers into a single association, among other changes,” the CPJ said in a statement released on Feb. 3.
“Under the proposed amendments, social media accounts or Web pages could even be blocked without judicial review under some circumstances. In the absence of a court order, it is unclear what public record will show that censorship has occurred,” the CPJ added.