Parliamentary Question: Internet Freedom as a criterion for EU accession

Marietje

Parliamentary questions

1 June 2011 E-005344/2011   Question for written answer to the Commission Rule 117 Marietje Schaake (ALDE)  Subject: Internet Freedom as a criterion for EU accession On Sunday 15 May 2011, thousands of Turks participated in a ‘Hands off our Internet’ march –organised online — to protest against new legislative proposals based on Turkish Law 5651 (‘Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of such Publication’), introduced by the Prime Minister’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). As of 22 August 2011, it will require Internet service providers to offer their customers four choices for filtering their Internet use, limiting access to many websites. The content of these filters is determined by the BTK, enabling the authority to censor websites arbitrarily. Attempts to circumvent the filtering will be heavily fined. Since the enactment of Law 5651 in May 2007, thousands of websites have been blocked(1) and legal proceedings continue to be brought against individual online journalists. Under Article 8 of Law 5651, websites can be blocked by the BTK if there is an ‘adequate suspicion’ that any one of eight particular offences is being committed. Given that Turkey is a candidate for EU membership, the EU should respond to the introduction of Internet filters, which jeopardises freedom of expression and civil liberties. 1. Does the Commission agree that the BTK Internet filters, the ongoing blocking of thousands of websites and the numerous legal procedures against online journalists, writers and broadcasters constitute violations of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, prohibit media pluralism and are therefore breaches of the EU’s ‘Copenhagen’ accession criteria? If not, why not? 2. Can 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? If so, does the Commission agree that this criterion also extends to the Internet? If not, why not? 3. Does the Commission agree that free and uncensored access to the Internet (Internet Freedom) 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? 4. What practical steps will the Commission take to encourage the Turkish Government to address its concerns about the proposed censorship of the Internet by the BTK and the increasing deterioration of freedom of the press in Turkey in general? (1) OSCE, ‘Report of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on Turkey and Internet Censorship’, 2010, http://www.osce.org/item/42294.html, in particular www.youtube.com, www.myspace.com, www.vimeo.com, www.blogger.com Please find the answer here.