International Press Institute (IPI) representatives joined journalism organizations, media professionals, and citizens who gathered in the heart of Ankara, Turkey, on June 22 to protest against a bill on disinformation submitted to the parliament by the governing alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). IPI and other organizations have warned that the law would lead to a new wave of censorship in Turkey and have criticized the fact that the bill was drafted behind closed doors, a troubling development considering the draft’s introduction of new sanctions that, among other things, threaten imprisonment for any citizen deemed to “distribut(e) deceptive information publicly”.

12 local journalism organizations* led a demonstration in front of the Atatürk Monument to demand withdrawal of the draft bill. Speaking in front of the crowd, the chairperson of the Association of Journalists, Nazmi Bilgin, stated that “this bill contradicts fundamental human rights, freedom of information and freedom of the press. This bill, in fact, contradicts the Constitution and the rights it bestows on the citizens. It constitutes an impediment for the access to rights not just by journalists but by the society at large as well.”

The representatives of journalism organizations also drew attention to the dangers posed by the draft bill to the financial sustainability of local media. The law would render news sites eligible for public advertisement funds, which journalism groups fear would significantly decrease the amount of financial resources available for the already struggling local printed newspapers. The groups’ representatives said that “roughly 1,000 local media outlets whose survival depends on the availability of public advertisement funds will face extinction”. IPI had previously warned that “this will [also] enable the government to fund pro-government news sites while banning critical media deemed to have breached the disinformation law”.

Shortly after the demonstration, it was reported that negotiations on the bill within the Turkish parliament were postponed. The opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Group Deputy Chair, Engin Özkoç, was quoted as saying that “as a result of our joint efforts, the bill’s negotiations at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey [which is the last instance before the bill becomes law] were postponed [to an unknown date] in order to enable further deliberation by the party groups”.

IPI, in solidarity with the local journalism organizations, calls on Turkey’s parliamentarians who believe in the parliamentary process and the free flow of ideas and information as central to a democratic society to vote down this bill.

Turkish Press Council
Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD)
Press Workers Union (DİSK Basın-İş)
Economic Correspondents’ Association (EMD)
Association of Journalists (GC)
İzmir Journalists’ Association (IGC)
KESK Haber-Sen
Association of Parliamentary Correspondents (PMD)
Photojournalists’ Association of Turkey (TFMD)
Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC)
Journalists’ Confederation of Turkey (TGK)
Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS)