Turkey: One to five years in prison for spreading ‘fake news’ on social media?

This statement was originally published on bianet.org on 17 August 2021.

Those who spread fake news on social media will face up to five years in prison, a pro-government daily has reported.

The government plans to introduce prison sentences of one to five years for publishing and spreading fake news on social media, according to a report by pro-government daily Türkiye.

The new law will also introduce the offenses of “disinformation” and “misinformation,” Türkiye reported. Also, those who commit defamation will face three months to two years in prison, it said.

Last month, President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that his party was working on a new law to tackle what he called “the terror of lies.”

The new law also includes the establishment of a regulatory body called the “Presidency of Social Media,” according to Türkiye. It will be either affiliated with the Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) or the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).

However, some AKP officials pointed out that the BTK already has a Department of Internet and the planned social media regulator may be established within this department, according to Türkiye.

Turkey’s regulatory bodies for print and broadcast media are widely accused of using their authorities to punish media outlets critical of the government.

In the first half of the year, the RTÜK issued 22 administrative penalties against several TV outlets, all of which are known for their critical coverage of the government.

In the last year, newspapers critical of the government got 88 percent of all ad cuts and penalties imposed by the Press Advertisement Institution (BİK), the authority responsible for placing public ads and announcements in newspapers.

Turkey enacted its first “social media law” last year, obligating all major platforms to assign legal representatives and store their users’ data in the country.

Click here to read the article in Turkish

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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