Turkish free speech rights under attack by the government

The Turkish government has long had a fractious relationship with the internet, marked by periodic bans on sites like YouTube for content that contravenes Turkish laws, like the law that makes it an offence to insult Turkishness. But new amendments to the country’s internet legislation that were passed by parliament on Wednesday take this internet-phobia to new levels, and represent an unprecedented attack on the free speech rights of Turkish citizens.

Turkey’s parliament has approved internet controls enabling web pages to be blocked within hours in what the opposition decried as part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal with methods more suited to “times of coups”. Social media and video sharing sites have been awash with alleged recordings of ministers including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and business allies presented as proof of wrongdoing. Reuters has been unable to verify their authenticity. Under a bill passed late on Wednesday, telecommunications authorities can block access to material within four hours without a prior court order, tightening restrictions imposed in a widely criticized law adopted by the EU candidate in 2007.

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