Turkish President approves controversial internet law, promises amendments

abdullah-gul-webrazziTurkish President Abdullah Gül approved, and therefore gave the full force and effect to, a controversial law that will introduce tighter governmental controls over the use of internet. In a series of tweets, Gül said he had already communicated what he sees “problematic” with the law, to the government, and expect them to be amended soon.

In its current form, the Law number 5651 gives government-controlled TİB (Directorate of Telecommunications and Communication) authority to block websites and pages without seeking a prior court ruling. It also obliges ISPs to store for a minimum of 2 years, and hand over to TİB immediately on demand, the traffic logs of every internet user in the country.

Abdullah Gül tweeted today that he took promise from the government that “two problematic points” in the Law will be revised to allign it “with international norms” and said he “approved the Law in its present form to speed up the revision process”.

Earlier today, Lütfi Elvan, the Minister of Transportation, Maritime and Communications, said some clauses in the Law will be revised. He said they are working to reinstate court ruling as a prerequisite for keeping the banned URLs stay that way. He added that court ruling will also be sought before a government authority asks TİB to share traffic data on user accounts.

The Law has long been heavily criticized by liberal segments of the parliament and society as being coercive and draconian. Opposition parties condemn the law saying it’s an assault to freedom of expression and media and actually aims “to conceal evidences of corruption of the government” going viral on the internet and becoming widely known.

Lately, some audio recordings belonging to high-level government officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leaked to the internet and caused resentment in the public. They included phone conversations about alleged allocations of public lands to construction companies as well as discussions on the huge amount of cash found during recent police raids to the homes of the sons of some ministers.

The Law is also criticized by the EU, of which Turkey is an official candidate country, as a threat to the freedom of speech and not being in concordance with EU legislation.

Internet access in Turkey has already been restricted for over 10 years, with thousands of websites blocked, most with arbitrary provisional injuctions by TİB. Prime Minister called Twitter a ‘scourge’ and labeled social media on several occasions as ‘the worst menace to society’.

Two leading social networks, Twitter and Facebook, had been heavily used by anti-government protesters during Gezi Park demonstrations last June to communicate and organize quickly.

UPDATE: Draft laws in Turkey is subject to the ratification of the Turkish Parliament first. Once passed by the Parliament, they need to be approved by the President to become Law in full force. That means, the approval of the controversial internet law by Abdullah Gül will make it fully effective in its present form until new ‘promised’ amendments are introduced through another legislative process, which, according to prominent internet lawyer Gökhan Ahi, may take a very long time.

Ahi also told Webrazzi that the draft changes on the present Law submitted to the Turkish Parliament today upon President’s ‘warning’, involve minor and insignificant revisions which do not touch fundamentals of the clauses that are much criticized by the public.

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