Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Legislating Cyber-Censorship in Turkey

Turkey has already enshrined censorship as part of its legal code, courtesy of Article 301. Now, the Turkish parliament is considering extending this writ to cyberspace:

A parliamentary commission approved a proposal Thursday allowing Turkey to block Web sites that are deemed insulting to the founder of modern Turkey, weeks after a Turkish court temporarily barred access to YouTube.

Parliament plans to vote on the proposal, though a date was not announced. The proposal indicates the discomfort that many Turks feel about Western-style freedom of expression, even though Turkey has been implementing widespread reforms in its bid to join the European Union.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the commission also debated whether the proposal should be widened to allow the Turkish Telecommunications Board to block access to any sites that question the principles of the Turkish secular system or the unity of the Turkish state -- a reference to Web sites with information on Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

It is illegal in Turkey to talk of breaking up the state or to insult Ataturk, the revered founder of modern Turkey whose image graces every denomination of currency and whose portrait hangs in nearly all government offices.

With Turkey already under pressure to drop Article 301 as a condition of EU membership, adopting this measure would send exactly the wrong signal.


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