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DRACONIAN LAW: ERDOGAN’S INTENTION & DECODING THE NEW TURKISH LAW

BY

Shelal Lodhi Rajput, II year B.B.A.,LL., Symbiosis Law School, Pune

 

Once a model for the Islamic world now reduced to a military power project. Not too long ago Turkey used to be a model and secular state, an Islamic republic with a progressive approach. Thanks to the Policies of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern-day Turkey who brought some watershed changes in Turkey that includes the replacement of Arabic with Latin script, the Islamic calendar with a western calendar and Mosque were under state control. But, the Turkey of today is very different now Turkey is ruled by a leader who wants to take his country back at Ottoman ambitions; he wants to run it like a modern-day Sultan. The name of this leader is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he has controlled Turkey for 17 long years first as Prime Minister and now as a President. In this 17 year, he has made Turkey an autocracy and installed himself on high moral grounds. Recently, the Turkish Parliament has passed a new law that brings Turkey in the era of tight social restrictions.


Parliament of Turkey passed a controversial law which will allow the government to take a greater control on the content of social media sites. The new law gives the government greater control over citizens' online activities, also social media giants have to open a local office in Turkey. The companies that won’t comply with the new rules or in consonance with the new law will have to pay fines and also face bandwidth restrictions, which will make the platform unusable. The social media giants will have to comply with government demands to block or remove any content or needs to pay a hefty fine. Surprisingly, the law also requires firms to store user data locally sparking fears that the government will use the new rules to crackdown on dissent. The law is a step of Ankara’s effort to control online content and to manage the social media as per the whims and fancies of President because they have greater authority now.[1]

With the imposition of the new law, Turkey has entered an era of tight social restrictions, Draconian law comes into force. Under the new rule, the platforms with more than 1 million daily users must open offices inside Turkey that can deal with the local court’s decision to remove offensive content within 48 hours.[2] The government says the legislation was needed to combat cybercrime and protect users, but the law comes with multi-dimensional problems that need to addressed as there are degrees of censorship on any content. This new law enables the Turkish government to literally monitor anything or literally to take down anything that is being offensive or that is posted targeting Erdogan, everyone from high school students, cartoonists and former Miss Turkey have landed in court for criticising Erdogan online. So, the prima facie intention behind the enactment of the law is to protect Erdogan and his loyal ones will only know it's otherwise if we will get to see the examples different from the aforesaid instances. Rights group and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights came out against the bill earlier also ahead of the vote but now as the parliament enacted law some grave challenges need to be addressed. The legislation has aroused deep concerns for many Internet users in Turkey, further, at the International level; the draconian law is against the very principle of freedom of free speech. The newly imposed draconian law censor’s free speech online in Turkey, in this recent development, it is worthwhile to mention that the country also has one of the world’s highest rates of imprisoned journalist, many of whom were arrested in a crackdown following a failed coup in 2016.

President Erdogan has turned Turkey into an authoritarian regime, he has censored the media, jailed journalists, sacked judges, interfering with court proceedings and now he's going after social media. Erdogan’s latest gift to Turkey is a social media censorship law. Earlier also Erdogan tried to ban websites and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia was blocked for nearly three years before Turkey’s top court held that the ban violated the right to freedom of expression and ordered it unblocked. The new law is an unrestricted tool in the hands of Erdogan to suppress the dissenting voice and it is a clear violation of freedom of expression.

How Turkey is Muzzling Free Speech? The judiciary is perpetuated by Erdogan, judges are often switched during trials and the Independence of Judiciary has already died in Turkey under the self-obsessed ambition of the Ottoman concept of Erdogan. Reuters in its report claimed that 45% of 21,000 Turkey’s Judges have less than 3 years of experience this lack of Independence of Judiciary makes a new bill in hands of Erdogan.[3] Turkey is already the country where more than 408,000 websites are already blocked, according to Turkish Freedom of Expression Association, the journalist is jailed for speaking the truth this is Turkey sleeping into a conservative less tolerant future.

The new law is just a draconian law that can be used by Erdogan as a tool to silence the dissenting voices in Turkey; it is detrimental to freedom of expression in Turkey. Turkey, once was a model nation is now moving towards an unchartered territory towards an autocracy as Independence of Judiciary is already lost, the government is trying to control the freedom of expression and in the last 17 years Erdogan has tried everything possible to bring Turkey in a position that was earlier, but it is not good for the world as well as Turkey also. Hence, there is a need to ponder upon the same and how Erdogan destroyed the ideas of Mustafa Kemal, who did a watershed in the history of Turkey to get it on the sand with the European country.

[1]Press (2020) Turkey approves new law to take control over social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, India Today. Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/turkey-new-law-power-social-media-platforms-facebook-twitter-1705572-2020-07-29 (Accessed: 1 October 2020

[2]DW. (2020) Turkey tightens control on social media with new law | DW | 29.07.2020, DW.COM. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-tightens-control-on-social-media-with-new-law/a-54360493 (Accessed: 1 October 2020).

[3]Staff, R. (2020) Special Report: How Turkey’s courts turned on Erdogan's foes, U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-judges-specialreport-idUSKBN22G17N (Accessed: 1 October 2020).

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