VIENNA, 18 January 2010 - Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today asked the Turkish authorities to bring Turkey's internet law in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards on freedom of expression.
"In its current form, Law 5651, commonly known as the Internet Law of Turkey, not only limits freedom of expression, but severely restricts the citizens' right to access information," said Haraszti, commenting on a new report commissioned by his office on the blocking measures provided by the law.
The report, prepared by Yaman Akdeniz, an internationally renowned expert on cyber rights, contains a legal review and detailed recommendations.
"At present, 3,700 Internet sites are blocked in Turkey, including YouTube, GeoCities, and Google sites. Even as some of the content that is deemed 'bad', such as child pornography, must be sanctioned, the law is unfit to achieve this. Instead, by blocking access to entire websites from Turkey, it paralyzes access to numerous modern file sharing or social networks," said Haraszti.
Haraszti, who presented the report at Bilgi University in Istanbul, Ankara State University and at the International Law Congress of the Ankara Bar Association on 13 and 14 January, noted that, while in Turkey, he was unable to access even the OSCE's YouTube website.
"The results make the means unjustifiable," he said. "Blocking access inside of Turkey is an affront to the public's right to the entirety of the Internet. Additionally, some of the official reasons to block the Internet are arbitrary and political, and therefore incompatible with OSCE's freedom of expression commitments."
He added: "Besides pointing out the dangers of the Internet law, I also have to repeat that the Turkish legal framework still fails to protect freedom of expression. Numerous Criminal Code provisions are applied against media workers, and as a result, journalists risk imprisonment for carrying out their work."
"Therefore 'reform or abolish' the Internet Law is our main recommendation. I hope that the Turkish authorities will soon remove the blocking provisions that prevent Turkish citizens from being part of today's global information society."
The report is available at www.osce.org/fom.