President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government says the legislation will tackle misinformation in the press as well as on social media
The proposed bill on “disinformation” in Turkey threatens freedom of speech and is likely to further hurt journalism ahead of next year’s elections, according to the Venice Commission which is a consultative body of the Council of Europe.
The same committee called on the Turkish parliament to reject the mentioned bill, announcing that prison sentences and other consequences of the bill would be disproportionate to its goals and could lead to “arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression”.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argues that this legislation will tackle misinformation in the press, as well as on social media. He rules it Justice and Development Party and his allies have a majority in parliament and are expected to vote on the bill even into the new week.
Critics of the bill, including opposition parties and press associations, are mainly concerned about an article that says those who spread false information about Turkey’s security to cause fear and disrupt public security will they face prison terms of one to three years.
“The committee is particularly concerned about the possible consequences of such a provision, especially the serious consequences of imposing personal censorship and not only in the context of the upcoming elections of June 2023“, as he announced late Friday night.
According to the same committee, the bill “constitutes an interference with freedom of expression,” which is protected by European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The committee asked members of the Turkish parliament to identify the relevant articles in the bill and reject their draft amendment, which was discussed last week.
There are alternative, non-criminal ways to deal with disinformation and misinformation in a democratic society, the Venice Commission said in its 23-page report.
Parliament is expected to discuss the bill again on Tuesday, after passing the first 15 articles last week.
Turkey is facing the suspension of its membership of the Council of Europe following an ECHR judgment over its failure to implement an earlier ruling in 2019 calling on it to release philanthropist Osman Kavala.
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