Twenty-five international media freedom, freedom of expression and journalists’ organizations call on Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote against the bill on “disinformation and fake news,” which was submitted to parliament’s General Assembly on October 4 by the governing alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The bill, which was first submitted to parliament in June before being postponed after the commission stages due to alleged differences between the two governing parties, has been resubmitted this week without any amendments despite fierce criticism from across civil society and the journalistic community.

The bill provides a framework for extensive censorship of online information and the criminalisation of journalism, which will enable the government to further subdue and control public debate in the lead-up to Turkey’s general elections in 2023. 

The proposed bill provides for:

  • Up to three years imprisonment for those found guilty of deliberately publishing  “disinformation and fake news” intended to instigate fear or panic, endanger the country’s internal or external security, public order and general health of Turkey’s society.
  • An increase of any sentence by 50 percent where the information has been published from anonymous accounts, by someone concealing their identity, or as part of an organisation’s activities.
  • The expansion of the press law to include online news sites. This will enable the government to use the expanded role of the Press Advertising Agency, Basin Ilan Kurumu (BIK), to fund online propaganda while excluding critical outlets as has been applied in the print media.

The bill, with its vaguely formulated definition of disinformation and ‘intent’, overseen by Turkey’s highly politicised judiciary, will put millions of internet users at risk of criminal sanction and could lead to blanket censorship and self-censorship in the run up to the 2023 elections.

A consortium of media freedom and human rights organisations will be visiting Turkey from 12 to 14 October to discuss the consequences of the disinformation bill with politicians and media stakeholders, as well as the challenges facing independent journalists in reporting public affairs in accordance with the principles of free and fair elections.  

Signed by:

·         International Press Institute (IPI)

·         ARTICLE 19

·         Articolo 21

·         Association of European Journalists

·         Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)

·         Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

·         Danish PEN

·         English PEN

·         European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

·         European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

·         Foreign Media Association (of Turkey) FMA

·         Freedom House

·         IFEX

·         International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

·         Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)

·         Media Research Association (MEDAR)

·         Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

·         P24 Platform for Independent Journalism

·         PEN America

·         PEN International

·         PEN Norway

·         Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

·         South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

·         Swedish PEN

·         The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)