Turkey is one step closer to enacting a law that would give the government the power to block any Internet site.
Late Wednesday Turkish lawmakers passed a bill that would let the presidency of regulatory agency Telecommunication and Communication (TIB) curtail access to an Internet site within four hours of receiving complaints alleging privacy violations, The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday. Such an action would not require a ruling from a court. Further, Turkish Internet companies would have to hold onto traffic information for as many as two years.
The next step falls to Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who must either approve the bill for it to become the law, or veto it. But the Journal sees the bill's approval as likely since Gul has rarely vetoed any legislation since taking office in 2007.
Privacy advocates and such organizations as the European Union and US watchdog Freedom House have already condemned the bill as a way of legislating censorship.
"The Turkish public deserves more information and more transparency, not more restrictions," a spokesperson for the EU said, according to the Journal. "The law in the current form introduces several restrictions to the freedom of expression."
Lutfi Elvan, minister for Turkey's transport, maritime affairs and communications, claims the bill is not an attempt at censorship and instead a way to protect privacy without having to deal with lengthy court procedures, the Journal added.
Some also suspect the bill is politically motivated.
A recent scandal in which allies of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were charged with graft led to prison sentences for 20 suspects. News, videos, and images of the scandal went online for all to see, further embarrassing the government.
The opposition party known as the Republican People's Party (CHP) wants the court to overturn the law. If the court fails to do so, the CHP will file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, party lawmaker Umut Oran told Journal.
"Erdogan wants to turn the Internet into his own portal,"Oran said. "This law is to cover up Erdogan's illegal activities, injustices, and bribery allegations. It also aims to prevent the surfacing of future charges."