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Turkey’s Disinformation Law

Context:

Recently, Turkey’s parliament adopted the much-critiqued ‘disinformation law’ that accords jail terms of up to three years to social media users and journalists for spreading ‘disinformation’.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Disinformation law
  2. What are the concerns?

About Disinformation law:

  • Cumulatively known as ‘the disinformation law’, it comprises about 40 articles that would amend about 23 different laws.
  • Of the 40, the most contentious is Article 29.
    • It designates it an offence to publicly disseminate misleading information about the country’s internal and external security, public order and general well-being for the purpose of causing fear or panic among the populace.
  • The Turkish government has argued that the law would combat cases where the internet is used to share illegal content under false names and where anonymous accounts slander and defame individuals of differing political thought, religion or ethnicity.
  • The article introduces a jail term between one and three years for any violation with the extension of an additional half of the initially stipulated term if the actions are done in anonymity.
  • To implement this law, social media platforms could now be asked to hand over user data to Turkish courts.

What are the concerns?

  • Critics, including the Venice Commission which is the advisory body to the Council of Europe on constitutional matters, have pointed to the unclear interpretation of certain crucial terminologies, especially ‘disinformation’.
  • The legislation accords the responsibility of determining the same to prosecutors.
  • Critics here argue that Turkey being a heavily polarised country and the courts having previously turned against journalists and other social-scientists does not lend a confident picture.
  • The Commission also highlighted concerns on assertions about what should constitute disturbance to ‘public peace’.
    • Following the meeting with the authorities, what seems to be the most alarming is that a public protest may be considered in itself a disturbance of public peace.
  • This also triggers questions on ‘dissemination’ of the alleged ‘disinformation’ especially when the boundaries between physical and online spaces are blurred.
  • Thus, the legislation lacks clarity on how the entity shall be deemed guilty, that is, for sharing or manufacturing the information (especially in an offline space).
  • It is for the above-mentioned reasons that a jail term appears to be a stretched penal provision.

-Source: The Hindu


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December 2022
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