MidEast

Turkey Government Blasted for Internet Power Grab

Lebanese outlet Ya Libnan reported yesterday that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is attempting to “increase control over [I]nternet access at a time when the government is also tightening its grip on the country’s legal institutions.”

But some critics have alleged that the legislative initiative is part of a general trend in which the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister, is concentrating more power in the wake of a corruption investigation that has targeted a host of figures connected to the government, including four former ministers and Mr Erdogan’s own son, Bilal.

“These are politically motivated measures to curb the free flow of information on the internet even further in Turkey,” said Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University. “Looking at the current political climate, it is primarily for controlling the leaking of videos and WikiLeaks kind of documents.”

Turkey’s top business group, the Turkish Industry and Business Association, blasted the proposed law.

“The law, which results in limiting the individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms, has also been subject to a ‘rights violation’ ruling of the European Court of Human Rights,” the statement read. “In such a situation, the planned amendments to the law are concerning and will increase censorship on the Internet. The draft should be cleared of articles that could harm the fundamental rights and freedoms and the Internet economy that is growing every day.”

If passed, the legislation will enable government officials to limit access to the Internet and conduct surveillance of all of an individual’s online activity. Internet providers will reportedly be forced into an organization controlled by the government. The moves come as skepticism deepens regarding Erdogan’s ability to survive the open political warfare that has recently engulfed the country. Judiciary figures linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen have launched and widened a corruption probe which has ensnared AKP elites, and the AKP for its part has purged hundreds of police and judicial officials. The heavy-handed tactics have led to suggestions that Erdogan is flailing. Veteran international journalist Frida Ghitis assessed late last week that “the myth of the all-powerful, universally loved prime minister had started to look like a hollow personality cult” and that “the coalition on which he built his support has started falling apart.”

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