Just days after Turkey hosted thousands of delegates from around the world for Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul and boasted about policing and pressuring internet freedoms in the country, a law has been passed in urgency, almost like escaping from fire. The new law allows Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) -which consists mainly of former spies and was talked of being disbanded to be made an office under national secret service- to carry out surveillance operations and blocking access to websites without court order. The law now includes the clauses that were rejected by President Gül when the last update was made in February 2014.
The bill came at a surprise moment when it was not being talked of in media and was definitely not debated at all. Just days before it got passed at 4 am, there was criticism of Turkish approach to digital rights and liberties, and while activists were expecting a loosening of censorship, surveillance and profiling activities of the government and secret service, it just happened to get even worse.
There has been named concerns and worries by an anonymous EU diplomat based in Ankara, and the Turkish EU minister has criticized him/her saying “this is not that person’s business”. Minister continued his remarks saying “this is only in times of national security, not on a regular basis”, referring to the clause of the new bill that states “this bill can be applied in matters related to national security, public order and prevention of crimes” yet failed to address what consists of national security breach in exactitude. One can remember 2013 Gezi Uprising and how it got labeled as a coup attempt and activists have been declared as traitors, and millions who supported the uprising as terrorists.
From Miners to Censorship
The reform package was started being drafted upon the death of 302 miners in a terrible mining tragedy, due to lack of security precautions; yet the outcome of the draft bill came to address censorship, surveillance and profiling cases. President Erdoğan approved the bill on the 34th anniversary of 1980 September 12 military coup, on Friday; thus initiating a new level of obstacle against rights and liberties.
Raiding of the TIB
TIB was raided last february and several top managers had been replaced after some phone conversations were leaked on the internet revealing the biggest corruption scandal in history regarding the Turkish government. Now the new team will probably be using the “server-ville” facilities just nearby the capital city where all telecommunications data is being stored. When combined with the plans to install NetClean and Procera software in all telecommunications spine of the country, this new bill just allows Turkish secret service to become a digital gestapo. It may be legal to carry out such actions in Turkey, but for sure it is not lawful.
Russian Style Tight Control
Turkey now prepares for yet another grip around digital rights and freedoms. In October there will be a new bill in the parliament which will address internet and press publishers. The new law is much like the Russian bloggers’ bill, requiring all digitally published content creators to reveal their names, addresses and contact details on the website, make all content available for at least a year without the possibility of deletion, and comply with already tightened media laws in the country. The new bill is set to target citizen journalism platforms mainly, including the bloggers.