OSCE urges Turkish gov’t not to adopt new Internet bill

Harlem Désir

Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, on Tuesday shared a legal review with Turkish authorities on elements of a bill that, if adopted, could restrict online broadcasting and further limit media pluralism in the country, Désir’s office reported on Wednesday.

“The goal of the analysis is to provide a detailed expert review for your authorities, including  Members of Parliament awaiting the General Assembly debate,” Désir stated in a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül.

Article 73 of the Miscellaneous Bill, which would become Article 29/A of Law 6112 titled “Presentation of Media Services via Internet,” would result in several changes to the current law that have raised a number of concerns.

“As underlined in this legal review, the bill could potentially restrict online broadcasting and limit content pluralism online. It is also questionable whether the bill is compatible with international treaties,” Désir said.

He referred to several provisions including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and OSCE commitments on the protection of freedom of expression and media freedom.

“I have been closely following media freedom developments in Turkey, and remain worried about the decline of the pluralistic media space. Due to pressure on traditionally print-based  media outlets, in Turkey the Internet has become the main platform to share and access diverse information. Attempts to adopt measures which might restrict this space would only increase pressure on free media,” Désir added.

“For these reasons, I hope that the Members of Parliament will consider the recommendations of the analysis.”

The legal review, commissioned by the OSCE and conducted by Professor Yaman Akdeniz, an internationally renowned expert on Internet freedom, assesses the article in the context of the above-mentioned international treaties and offers ways to improve the legislation governing Internet freedom in Turkey.

Its main recommendation is to refrain from adopting Article 73 in its current form and to focus further discussions on licensing based on a “notification model” instead of a system of a priori control where media service providers and platform operators would be required to obtain a license from the Radio and Television Supreme Council.

“My Office stands ready to assist your authorities in these important deliberations, in an effort to improve online freedom of expression in Turkey.  I also encourage your authorities to involve all stakeholders in this process,” Désir said. (turkishminute.com)

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