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Turkey’s government seeks to gain authority to shut down websites freely

This picture shows a person using a laptop computer showing YouTube’s logo in the Turkish city of Istanbul. (© AFP)

The Turkish government has prepared a new bill that seeks to broaden state control over the Internet.

Under the bill, which was presented to the parliament on Friday, the prime minister of the country and other cabinet ministers would be able to shut down websites for reasons including “national security” without a court order, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported on Sunday.

The last-minute amendments to the bill also stipulate that maintaining public order and ensuring security for life and property are also other possible reasons for shutting down a website.

According to the daily, Turkish officials in the first step should try to block the specific content on a website. However, if such a move was technically impossible, the prime minister and the ministers could order a blanket ban on the website, which would then be applied by the Telecommunications Directorate.

If passed, the bill would give authorities in Turkey an unprecedented power to control the Internet. It is scheduled to be debated in the parliament next week.

Tight Internet control in Turkey

Efforts by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to tighten its control over the Internet has been stepped up since the Gezi Park anti-government protests in June 2013 and the massive corruption investigations launched in December 2013.

Since then, a series of online leaks have inflicted serious damage on the government, which accused some prosecutors and police officials of taking orders from the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to launch a smear campaign against the government.

Ankara claims that the protests and the corruption probes were part of a “coup plot.”

Turkey blocked access to Twitter on March 20, 2014, after it was used to spread corruption allegations against then prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his inner circle.

YouTube was also blocked on March 27, 2014, after the release of an audio recording revealing a discussion among top Turkish security officials about a possible false-flag operation to justify a military offensive against Syria.


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