Turkish journalist organizations on Tuesday denounced a government-backed bill that could see offenders jailed for three years for spreading “disinformation,” saying it threatens freedom of expression, Agence France-Presse reported.
The bill, due for debate in parliament on Tuesday after being floated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in May, would force social media networks and internet sites to hand over details of users suspected of “propagating misleading information.”
It comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has long sought to muzzle criticism, is facing his most challenging election since he came to power nearly two decades ago.
The ruling party’s approval ratings have dropped to historic lows ahead of elections scheduled for June of next year thanks to skyrocketing inflation and a currency crisis.
“We journalists are warning both lawmakers and the public once again as part of our responsibility to society,” 10 journalist organizations said in a joint statement outside parliament in Ankara.
“If this law is implemented in its current form, freedom of the press, expression and communication in our country will be put under great pressure ….”
Journalists, accompanied by opposition lawmakers, wore black masks in protest and carried banners saying, “The press is free,” “No to the censorship law” and “A free press is essential to democracy.”
Turkey regularly ranks among the world’s worst jailers of journalists.
As well as risking prison, journalists convicted of breaking the new law could also lose their press cards.
While the opposition has tried to block the law, the Islamist AKP and their ultranationalist allies in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have a majority in parliament.