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Turkey

Saka: 'Government will decide what violates privacy'

Turkish laws censoring the Internet extend existing policies clamping down on free speech, Istanbul communications instructor Erkan Saka tells DW. Any opposition to Prime Minister Erdogan will be blocked.

DW: The government has introduced a new agency to oversee and block websites they deem to violate privacy or contain insulting content. Is this legislation censorship?

Erkan Saka: I believe it is a case of censorship since the judicial process is evaded. All decisions are now up to Telecommunications Communications Presidency, which is appointed by the prime ministry. The government will decide what violates privacy and what does not.

What types of sites exactly will be blocked?

Erkan Saka 
Photo: personal collection

Erdogan isn't ready to listen to criticism, Saka said

Turkey has already blocked more than 40,000 sites. They include child pornography and any kind of porn sites and any sites that are deemed "obscene." Radical political sites are also banned. With the new law, instead of blocking a whole site - especially social media based sites - the government intends to block particular pages and accounts. It is easy to see that any opposition will be blocked. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proven many, many times that he is not open to even minor criticism.

How much of an impact will the legislation have on ordinary citizens?

The government's access to personal data may be the worst aspect of the law. Turkish authorities are notorious when it comes to profiling their citizens. This is definitely a substantive way for surveillance and profiling of citizens. I believe that most ordinary citizens will, to a large extent, find ways to circumvent the blocking, but the government is also attempting to criminalize Internet usage. That means that many ordinary citizens could also be labeled as criminals of some sorts.

What does it mean for press freedom and political participation?

The laws have to be looked at in the context of the government's general approach to the media. Turkey is already number one in jailing journalists. This legislation is not exceptional, but actually a continuation of media policies set by Erdogan's Justice or Development Party (AKP) that aim to restrict press freedom by criminalizing Internet usage, governments wants citizens to self-censor.

Is this an attempt for the government to crack down on dissenting opinion during an election campaign?

I believe this is part of a process that started with the Gezi resistance. That was the very first substantial social opposition to the AKP. The second step in the AKP's decreasing legitimacy is the corruption case and its battle with the Gulen movement. I believe these are the immediate reasons for this legislation. I think the corruption case is even more urgent as many leaked tapes obviously show Erdogan family members themselves being involved.

The language the government has used to justify the legislation and the introduction of a Web monitoring agency is more in line with other repressive regimes like Iran and China and less with democracies. How does this fit with Turkey's efforts to start talks on membership in the European Union and the state of Turkish democracy in general?

It doesn't fit at all. As a one-time supporter of the AKP, I am very disappointed with the turn the party took in the last two to three years. The AKP leadership seems to have used EU negotiations to justify their position. But after defeating the army, they don't need such justification anymore. I believe our friends in EU may not have realized that the AKP had already given up its professed EU dreams.

Erkan Saka is an assistant professor of communication at Istanbul Bilgi University and a jury member for DW's award The Bobs - Best of Online Activism.

DW.DE

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