Activists protest draft Turkish Internet law

An advocacy group for press freedom says that a new law under consideration in Turkey would drastically limit the right to publish information on the Internet.

In an open letter to Turkey's Prime Minister, the International Press Institute (IPI) said it is "deeply concerned" about a proposal which would require Web site operators to submit pages to authorities prior to publication.

The proposed legislation would also affect "electronic broadcasts carrying text or pictures," and would oblige new ISPs (Internet service providers) to obtain permission from authorities before starting operations, IPI added.

The Turkish embassy in Berlin could not be immediately reached for comment.

"I guess you can see this as the authorities being afraid of the power of this new medium," said Omer Oguz, liaison officer at IPI.

He added that a Turkish Web site,, was reportedly taken offline in February after being accused of violating a law which outlaws insulting the military. But that case, said Oguz, was only peripherally related to the Internet. "You don't criticize the army in Turkey; it's a sort of taboo."

Internet access in Turkey is "moderately" restricted, according to an annual survey on freedom of the press by the pro-democracy group Freedom House Inc., which rates the country's press as "partly free."

Turkey is considering implementing an "electronic brigade" in its police force, with the power to oversee the Internet and electronic communication, according to the Paris-based media freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders). In the past, police have also raided Internet cafés, rounding up teenagers there in order to "teach them a lesson," the group said.

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