A member of the European Parliament submitted questions Tuesday to the European Commission regarding Internet restrictions in Turkey.
By İpek Yezdani, 24.5.2011, www.hurriyetdailynews.com Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament from the Liberal group, submitted questions Tuesday to the European Commission regarding the proposed legal imposition of an online filtering system and structural domain-name blocking in Turkey. In her question paper, Schaake asked the commission what “concrete actions” it would take regarding the Turkish government “to address its concerns about the proposed censorship of the Internet ... and the overall increasing deterioration in freedom of the press in Turkey.” Saying that “an uncensored, free Internet is essential for a free and open society,” Schaake said she posed her questions to the commission because she “believe[s] the latest censorship [in Turkey] may well be in conflict with the Copenhagen criteria” for EU accession. “The proposed online filtering system violates the people’s right to information, restricts freedom of expression and is a threat for democracy,” Schaake said. The European Commission has previously warned Turkey about its attempts to control and filter the Internet. As of Aug. 22, all Internet users in Turkey users will have to choose among one of four Internet filtering packages, under a regulation by the Prime Ministry’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority, or BTK. All of the packages will block certain websites, and the filtering criteria will not be made public. The Turkish Telecommunications Directorate, or TİB, has also announced a plan to ban 138 words such as “free” or “yasak” (forbidden) from Internet domain names. “Banning words is dangerous. Turkey would be much stronger as a more free and resilient society, where different opinions can exist instead of being suppressed,” Schaake said. “We need to join our efforts to keep working on Turkey’s EU accession. The Internet censorship hurts the rights and freedoms of people in Turkey first and foremost, but it also does not help the accession process.” In the question paper that she submitted to the European Commission, Schaake noted that thousands of Turks participated May 15 in an online-organized march to protest the new legislative proposals under the rallying cry “Don’t touch my Internet.” “Given that Turkey is a candidate for EU membership, the EU should respond to the introduction of [mandatory] Internet filters, which is a danger to free expression and civil liberties,” said Schaake. The European Parliament member asked the following questions of the commission: - “Does the Commission agree that the BTK’s Internet filters, in addition to the ongoing blocking of thousands of websites and numerous legal procedures against journalists, writers and broadcasters, is in violation of citizens’ right to freedom of expression and prohibits media pluralism, and is therefore in breach of the EU’s accession criteria? If not, why not? - “Does the Commission confirm that freedom of the press and media will be singled out as a specific political criterion or benchmark for EU accession? If not, why not?” - “Does the Commission agree that free and uncensored access to the Internet and access to information and communication technologies is essential for the development and preservation of democracy and the rule of law? If not, why not?” - “Which concrete actions will the Commission take regarding the Turkish government to address its concerns about the proposed censorship of the Internet by the BTK and the overall increasing deterioration in freedom of the press in Turkey?”