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New Internet law in Turkey sparks outrage – Features – Al Jazeera English

New Internet law in Turkey sparks outrage – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Controversial web controls implemented after phone-recording leaks raise questions and stoke public anger.

 Last updated: 25 Feb 2014 13:10

Street protests and anti-censorship campaigns have been launched to oppose Turkey’s internet law [AFP]
Turkey’s new law tightening the state’s grip on the Internet has gone into force after President Abdullah Gul approved the controversial legislation pushed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.The legislation changes Turkey’s original 2007 Internet law, and has sparked street protests and various public campaigns against the new online controls.

The conservative government has rejected claims that the law will lead to censorship, arguing instead that it aims at protecting individual rights and privacy. “There is no censorship on the Internet. Freedoms are not restricted. We are only taking precautions against blackmail and immorality,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said.

“If the Internet and computers are not used in a proper way under certain monitoring and order, they do not constitute beneficial or educational tools anymore. Instead, they turn into dangers with bitter results.”

Last year’s Gezi Park protests against the Turkish government were largely organised through social media, which Erdogan at the time called “the worst menace to society“.

#UnFollowAbdullahGul

A Twitter campaign – #UnFollowAbdullahGul – was launched after Turkey’s tech-savvy president approved the proposed Internet bill, despite his expressed concerns. His follower count dropped by more than 100,000 in two days last week.

In another campaign named #4Saat (“four hours” in Turkish), liberal newspaper Radikal started self-censoring various news stories on its website every four hours – the time needed to block a URL under the new administrative process – to protest against the legislation.

Critics of the new law organised several protests

Eyup Can, the editor-in-chief of Radikal, told Al Jazeera the digital campaign aims at providing the Turkish public with a better understanding of the new law.

“As the legislation is highly technical both in terms of law and technology, sometimes it is not easy for the public to understand. We wanted to display the practical future outcomes of the law and make the Turkish public grasp what changes it would make in our lives,” he said.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition party, has repeatedly declared it would take the legislation to the Constitutional Court.

“The AKP government, striving to restrict freedom in every domain, is stepping up its pressure on the Internet, which is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives,” CHP said in a statement.

Turkey is an Internet-savvy country with 21.9 million broadband Internet subscriptions as of last September, according to a report by Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority. There are 68.4 million mobile-phone subscriptions and 47.5 million 3G subscriptions in a country with 75 million people.

The European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations have expressed concern over the legislation, along with rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

A similar bill proposed by the government in 2011 was shelved following mass street protests. This time, however, the government decided to go forward despite a similar reaction.

What is new?

The legislation allows Turkey’s telecommunications authority (TIB) to block websites without first obtaining a court order. With a complaint filed for breach of “privacy of persons”, TIB has the power to order the blocking of a URL, which will be carried out by Internet service providers within four hours.

A court order must then be sought by the telecommunications authority within 24 hours. However, the web page remains offline until the court makes a decision.

The president of the TIB can also block URLs without complaints having been filed, if prospective plaintiffs are not capable of applying, or if a delay could cause “irreversible consequences”.

Gokhan Ahi, a lawyer and lecturer specialising in Internet law, told Al Jazeera the TIB could use its newly given authority anyway it sees fit. “Will it monitor delays of complaints [over breaches of privacy] for every citizen, or only for the government? By law, this institution works under the jurisdiction of the government, and it would carry out any written order from it to block a web page when it has such a power,” Ahi said.

Blocking web pages immediately after complaints are lodged creates a legal basis to sweep news reports and other online information under the carpet, Ahi said, pointing out that the ensuing court process ensures the URLs stay blocked for some time.

The rush of phone recordings to the Internet is so disgusting that, I believe, accelerating the legal decision-making mechanism [for blocking URLs] is in line with the principle of right to privacy.- Hilal Kaplan, columnist

Data will be stored

The law also requires Internet service providers to collect all data on web users’ activities for up to two years, and to provide authorities with the data in question on demand.

Users’ information on Internet traffic will be collected based on IP and subscriber numbers, instead of URLs, which was criticised as being more intrusive. The collected data will only be accessible by court order.

The law allows single URLs to be blocked, as opposed to entire websites, as directed by the old legislation. The blocking of YouTube from 2007 until 2010 for videos insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was a significant example of that.

It also removes prison sentences for content and access providers who violate the law, which was a big obstacle for foreign investors in the sector. However, prison sentences can still be handed down if violators do not pay fines they incur under the law.

According to Can of Radikal, there is nothing wrong with regulating the Internet as long as it doesn’t restrict freedom of information.

“Through this law, the job [to block web pages] has been left to the initiative of a public employee heading a state institution, and this creates an arbitrary situation,” Can said.

Leaked recordings

The swift adoption of the new Internet law comes after the online leak of phone recordings that allegedly document corruption in state tenders and bribery involving businessmen and the Turkish government.

The latest recording, which was leaked on Monday, purports to be a conversation between Erdogan and his son Bilal, in which the prime minister asked him to move money from his and his relatives’ homes. Bilal supposedly said in the recording that some 30m euros ($41m) still remain to be disposed of. The prime minister has said the recording is fake.

Other recordings have revealed Erdogan’s direct intervention in mainstream media coverage. He confirmed one of these conversations at a recent press conference.

Some of these recordings were released through court orders and publicised by the CHP, the main opposition party. Others were leaked anonymously on social media and video-sharing websites, and their authenticity has not been challenged by the government.

Listening Post: Turkey’s media pressure points

In mid-December, the government was hit by unexpected and comprehensive corruption probes, mainly targeting the sons of ministers, bureaucrats and prominent businesspeople.

The government alleged the investigations were organised by a “parallel state”, an apparent reference to Gulen, a religious group formerly allied with the AKP whose followers are widely believed to wield significant influence over Turkey’s police and judiciary.

Erdogan linked the phone leaks several times to the Gulen Movement.

The government’s reaction to the corruption investigations was to initiate a country-wide comprehensive reshuffling in the Turkish Police Forces, which, according to media reports, halted a planned second and third wave of detentions. Prosecutors who launched the investigations were removed, and the AKP-dominated parliament recently adopted a new law increasing its influence over the judiciary.

Hilal Kaplan, a pro-government columnist for the Yeni Safak daily, linked the revamped Internet law to the recent phone leaks. “The rush of phone recordings to the Internet is so disgusting that, I believe, accelerating the legal decision-making mechanism [for blocking URLs] is in line with the principle of right to privacy protected by Article 20 of the constitution,” she recently wrote.

The government has rejected any link between the phone leaks and the new legislation, saying it had worked on the text of the law for the past two years.

Radikal’s editor Can disagreed, however, saying the leaked recordings had spurred the government to push through the new Internet controls before local elections scheduled for March 30.

“The government would not bring the bill to the parliament this fast if it was not for the recent developments. It is an issue that should have been widely discussed in the country, as there are no certain global norms about the use of the Internet,” he said.

Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Thriceee

No Truce in Turkey as Erdogan Party Sees Graft Probe as Coup – Bloomberg

No Truce in Turkey as Erdogan Party Sees Graft Probe as Coup – Bloomberg.

Turkey’s ruling party will continue to purge police and judiciary members pursuing corruption charges against government officials and will then seek to prosecute them for attempting a coup, a top party official said.

“My opinion is that they are criminals — the police and the judges and prosecutors,” Osman Can, a member of the central committee of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, said in a Jan. 6 interview in Istanbul. “If you can destroy this organization, you can save democracy.”

The remarks suggest there’s little scope for easing tensions between the government and followers of the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan’s party accuses Gulen supporters in the judiciary and police for pursuing the graft probes in an effort to discredit it before local elections in March.

The government has removed prosecutors and dismissed about 1,800 police officers since news of the 15-month secret investigations broke on Dec. 17, when sons of three cabinet ministers were among dozens detained, according to Hurriyet newspaper. In a new wave of dismissals announced today, the government reassigned Muammer Bucak, a deputy head of the national police force, and recalled chiefs of 15 provinces, including the capital, Ankara, according to a decree in the Official Gazette.

Markets Hit

In Brussels, a spokesman for the European Commission expressed concern that developments in Turkey “could weaken investigations in progress and the capacity of the legal system and the police to conduct independent investigations.” As a candidate to join the European Union, Turkey must respect EU entry criteria, including rule of law, and deal with corruption allegations “in a transparent and impartial manner,” Olivier Bailly told a news conference.

The political turmoil has hit markets. Turkey’s currency and bonds have been the world’s biggest decliners since the arrests began, while the benchmark stock index fell 8 percent. Fitch Ratings said yesterday that the turmoil could lead Turkey to lose its investment-grade rating, should it undermine the government’s ability to maintain economic stability.

Gulen’s movement and Erdogan’s party were allies for most of the past decade. They split over issues including Erdogan’s pursuit of a peace accord with Kurdish militants and the government’s decision to close the university exam prep schools that are a source of influence and income for Gulen followers, according to Can, a former official at the Constitutional Court.

‘To the End’

He said the government would only go after Gulen followers who have sought to topple Erdogan’s elected government, and that sympathizers working in state institutions won’t face retribution. Can said the group’s structure and obedience to one leader mean that its more “militant” members aren’t compatible with democratic systems.

“They have their own agenda, which definitely does not fit with civil democracy,” Can said. “After they are removed, the government should prosecute them to the end.”

Prosecutors in the city of Izmir yesterday widened the graft probe by detaining officials at Turkey’s state railways authority. The government retaliated by removing the police officers in charge of the raids, according to Radikal newspaper.

‘Notable Casualty’

“The rule of law is by far the most notable casualty of the ongoing crisis,” Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London, said in e-mailed comments on Jan. 6. “It is unclear whether the government is committed to this principle, and it is equally questionable whether the judiciary and the police can actually deliver justice.”

Can said that while some of the corruption charges may be true, the way in which the probes were carried out made them part of a coup attempt.

Among those arrested are a son of the interior minister, who was found with several safes at his house filled with cash, and the chief executive officer of a state-run bank, who had $4.5 million stuffed into shoeboxes, which he said had been donated to build Islamic schools.

Erdogan says the detentions aim to block Turkey’s economic progress by targeting businessmen involved in major infrastructure projects.

‘Manipulative Tool’

“In all democracies, there is corruption,” Can said. “But if you don’t have a democratic system, those with bureaucratic power can destroy the political will, destroy political parties, for instance, by using corruption as a manipulative tool. They are very dangerous.”

Flaws in Turkey’s democracy stem from a system inherited by Erdogan’s party in 2002 and a constitution written under military rule in the 1980s, Can said. The government has been unable to redraft the charter due to opposition from parties with vested interests in the status quo, he said.

Gulen supporters dominate “all the control points” of Turkey’s judiciary, even though they account for about only 15 percent of its personnel, Can said. He said the government is “discussing every possible option” to remove that influence.

Late yesterday, the ruling party submitted a proposal to parliament to cut powers of the board that elects judges and prosecutors, which last month criticized the government for damaging the independence of the judiciary. The proposal empowers the justice ministry to appoint most judges.

The party also may consider changing its self-imposed three-term limit for members of parliament, after which they are required to step down from office, Can said. That rule applies to much of the party’s leadership, including Erdogan, whose third term comes to an end next year.

“You have rules, but if you have exceptional situations, you can make exceptions,” Can said. If the crisis persists “they could make an exception, and I would support this exception. This crisis can’t continue.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul atbharvey11@bloomberg.net; Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

Erdogan Says ‘Gang’ Within State Is Imperiling Turkey – Bloomberg

Erdogan Says ‘Gang’ Within State Is Imperiling Turkey – Bloomberg.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his government from allegations of corruption and said he would fight back against a “gang” within his own state bureaucracy.

Taking his message public seven times in the past two days, Erdogan, 59, has lashed out at what he said was a campaign to destabilize the country in order to benefit financial speculators. The nation’s stock, currency and bond markets fell last week on concern the scandal is widening.

“A new attack has been launched against our government, democracy and the will of the nation,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters yesterday in the town of Turgutlu. “There are circles who are trying to set up a parallel state.”

Anger over the scandal sparked protests for a second day yesterday in several areas, including the Aegean city of Izmir, where police used tear gas and water cannons to prevent demonstrators from reaching a local branch of Erdogan’s party, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

The protests were reminiscent of anti-government demonstrations that roiled the country in June. Police detained 70 people in Istanbul on Dec. 27, Anatolia reported.

Erdogan said the investigation, which has split the judiciary and pitted bureaucrats against one another, is an attempt to derail the government.

‘Corruption Scandal’

“They’ve dubbed this the biggest corruption scandal of the century,” Erdogan said. “You can’t stain anyone without evidence, you can’t declare them as corrupt from the start.”

On Dec. 27, as he returned to Istanbul, Erdogan was greeted by supporters at the airport. They chanted “traitor Bayraktar,” in reference to former Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, who last week urged Erdogan to step down.

Erdogan is increasing his appearances after a top judicial body blocked his order requiring the government to be notified of investigations, deepening a standoff that sent markets tumbling. That ruling was unconstitutional, Erdogan said. Opposition lawmakers countered that the prime minister was undermining the charter.

“The government isn’t going after thieves,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main oppositionRepublican People’s Party, said yesterday in the Black Sea port city of Samsun. “It’s chasing prosecutors and judges, and telling them to not catch the thieves.”

Investigation Urged

He called Erdogan “the prime minister of the corrupt,” and his party urged President Abdullah Gulto probe the allegations.

Turkey’s economy, the largest in the Middle East, has more than tripled in size in nominal terms during Erdogan’s 10 years in office. The majority Muslim country, the region’s only member in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, shares borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The lira weakened as much as 2.3 percent to 2.1764 against the dollar on Dec. 27, before trading at 2.1549 in Istanbul. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index (XU100) fell 1 percent at the close to 63,885.22, the lowest since August 2012. Two-year bond yields climbed above 10 percent for the first time since August.

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said on his Twitter account that the economy will be quick to recover from what he called a soft-coup attempt. “We’ll disappoint doomsday sayers again,” Simsek said.

‘Significant Adjustment’

He said the weakening currency will lead to a “significant adjustment” of the current account deficit, though have a limited effect on inflation. Any economic slowdown is “likely to be temporary,” Simsek said.

The corruption investigation has become the battleground in a struggle between the government and followers of a U.S.-based imam, Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Erdogan’s supporters for instigating the crackdown. The cleric broke with Erdogan recently, ending a partnership that has helped sustain the single-party government since 2002.

Erdogan yesterday chided the prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, who was stripped of the graft investigation. “Are you a prosecutor or a member of an organization?” Erdogan said.

Fallout spread during the past week, with former Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay quitting Erdogan’s ruling party, along with two others.

“Security forces can’t collaborate with the government,” Gunay told reporters in Ankara. “I’m warning civil servants who are following unlawful orders not to carry them out — you will be held accountable tomorrow for today’s violation of the rule of law.”

Army Statement

Turkish police have been caught in the struggle between Erdogan and Gulen. About 500 police chiefs were dismissed from their posts and reassigned after the sons of three ministers were among dozens detained. All three ministers were replaced by Erdogan last week.

Turkey’s military, which as recently as 1997 pressured the country’s first Islamist prime minister to step down, has steered clear of the fray.

“The Turkish Armed Forces in no way wants to be involved in political debates,” the military said in a statement.

The army, however, is asking for a retrial of hundreds of its members who were jailed in coup-plot cases, Milliyet newspaper said yesterday, citing what it said were remarks by General Necdet Ozel, chief of the military, during a closed-door National Security Council meeting Dec. 26.

Telephone calls by Bloomberg News to the military’s press office weren’t answered.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said in a statement that he was concerned by “the removal of a large number of police officers from their duties” and urged Turkey to “take all the necessary measures to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed.”

Turkey’s new EU Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quick to respond. The EU shouldn’t reach “prejudiced conclusions while interpreting domestic political developments in Turkey,” he said.

 

Erdogan Says Graft Probe Aims to Derail His Government – Bloomberg

Erdogan Says Graft Probe Aims to Derail His Government – Bloomberg.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out four times yesterday at a graft probe that’s ensnared his government as anger over the scandal sparked protests and clashes.

Protests erupted in at least five cities overnight, including Istanbul and Ankara, before being broken up by police with tear gas and water cannons, reminiscent of anti-government demonstrations that roiled the country in June. Police detained 70 people in Istanbul, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

The country’s stock, currency and bond markets fell this week on concerns the scandal is widening. Erdogan said the investigation, which has split the judiciary and pitted bureaucrats against one another, is an attempt to derail the government and will only benefit financial speculators.

“The operations that started under the guise of corruption are an obstacle to building a new Turkey,” Erdogan said yesterday from Sakarya, a city east of Istanbul.

Turkey’s economy, the largest in the Middle East, has more than tripled in size in nominal terms over Erdogan’s 10-year leadership. The majority Muslim country, the region’s only member in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, shares borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Erdogan is slated to address his supporters in the western city of Manisa later today.

Last night, on his return to Istanbul, Erdogan was greeted by supporters at the airport. They chanted “traitor Bayraktar,” in reference to former Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, who this week urged Erdogan to step down. One woman, her head covered with a scarf, kissed Erdogan’s hand after he addressed flag-waving supporters from on top of a bus.

Coverup Alleged

“There is an effort to cover up corruption allegations and the public is aware of this,” Haluk Ozdalga, a lawmaker who quit the ruling party yesterday, said in a press conference in Ankara. “Turkey must immediately turn away from this wrong path.”

Erdogan spoke after a top judicial body blocked his order requiring the government to be notified of probes, deepening a standoff that has sent markets tumbling. That ruling was unconstitutional, Erdogan said.

The currency weakened as much as 2.3 percent to 2.1764 against the dollar on Dec. 27, before trading at 2.1549 in Istanbul. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index (XU100) fell 1 percent at the close to 63,885.22, the lowest level since August 2012. Two-year bond yields climbed above 10 percent for the first time since August.

U.S.-Based Imam

The corruption investigation has become the battleground in a struggle between the government and followers of a U.S.-based imam, Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Erdogan’s supporters for instigating the crackdown. The cleric broke with Erdogan recently, ending a partnership that has helped sustain the single-party government since 2002.

“They brought the issue this far,” Erdogan said. “These incidents are a continuation of the prep school process,” he said in a reference to tensions with the movement over a government decision to shut down prep schools, a major source of influence and income for Gulen’s followers.

Erdogan said no one had the right to put innocent people, including himself, under a cloud of suspicion and vowed to hold accountable anyone found guilty of stealing from the state.

As police moved in on demonstrations overnight, onlookers in Istanbul chanted “government resign.” Police also clashed with hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

“They are attacking for the last time,” Erdogan said of those pushing for the investigations. “God willing, and with the support of our nation, we will destroy this resistance and repel these attacks.”

Spreading Fallout

The fallout spread, with former Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay and Ozdalga quitting Erdogan’s ruling party yesterday, a day after the resignation of lawmaker Erdal Kalkan. All three faced expulsion for their criticism of the party’s response to graft allegations.

“Security forces can’t collaborate with the government,” Gunay told reporters in Ankara. “I’m warning civil servants who are following unlawful orders not to carry them out — you will be held accountable tomorrow, for today’s violation of the rule of law.”

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said he was concerned by “the removal of a large number of police officers from their duties” and urged Turkey to “take all the necessary measures to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination.”

Police Dismissals

Turkish police have been caught in the power struggle between Erdogan and Gulen. About 500 police chiefs were dismissed after the sons of three cabinet ministers were among dozens detained. Sons of former interior and economy ministers were charged and jailed so far, while the son of Bayraktar was released pending trial. All three ministers were replaced by Erdogan this week.

“The government seized the judiciary in a government coup,” Faik Oztrak, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said in a statement. “The prime minister must resign to be held accountable as soon as possible.”

Turkey’s military, which as recently as 1997 pressured the country’s first Islamist prime minister to step down, has stayed clear of the fray.

“The Turkish Armed Forces in no way wants to be involved in political debates,” the military said in a statement.

Selling Bonds

Foreign investors have dumped Turkish bonds at the fastest pace in two years amid the growing scandal. Investors pared their holdings by $532 million to a three-month low of $53.8 billion in the week through Dec. 20, after selling a net $1.38 billion the week before, the central bank said this week. They’ve cut their holdings from a record $72 billion in May.

“The government’s response to corruption allegations grew into the question of the rule of law,” Mahmut Akpinar, a professor of political science at Ankara’s Turgut Ozal University, said by phone. “This may have consequences in the ballot box, especially if people begin to feel the worsening in economy in their pocketbooks.”

The outflows are a reversal of the investment that helped finance Turkey’s growth during Erdogan’s more than 10-year stint, a period in which nominal gross domestic product more than tripled and the country’s dollar bonds posted an average 9.7 percent annual gain.

 

Germany-Turkey diplomatic row intensifies – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Germany-Turkey diplomatic row intensifies – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

 

Turkey unions strike over crackdown – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Turkey unions strike over crackdown – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

 

Water Cannon And Tear Gas In Turkey: The Photo Exhibition | Zero Hedge

Water Cannon And Tear Gas In Turkey: The Photo Exhibition | Zero Hedge.

 

Police and protesters clash in Istanbul – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Police and protesters clash in Istanbul – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Turkish police force protesters out of square – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Turkish police force protesters out of square – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

 

Tear gas returns to Turkey protests – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Tear gas returns to Turkey protests – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

 

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