LAW PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE PRESS LAW AND SOME LAWS: AN ASSESSMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF THE GDPR
DR. SARPHAN UZUNOĞLU
HAZAL SENA KARACA
Although the “Draft Bill on Amending the Press Law and Some Laws”, also known as “Disinformation Law”, has not been enacted, it is the most popular issue among media actors in Turkey, especially the articles it contains for the regulation of the press law and the prevention of disinformation, which outline what is suitable for censorship and punishment mechanisms. Because of the ambiguous expressions the articles include, it has become the focus of concerns and criticisms of several civil society actors and media professionals. There are also experts who describe the bill as a “censorship law” considering the current landscape regarding the internet and freedom of expression in Turkey. On the other hand, the validity of the rhetoric that the said draft was based on the “Digital Services Law” of the European Union is among the least discussed issues.
Starting with a general summary of the increasingly autocratic nature of the Internet and the increasing state interventions, this report focuses on the “Brussels Bourgeois Internet Model” and “Digital Services Law”, which provide an efficient framework for understanding the approach, laws and mechanisms of the European Union. The report aims to analyze the “Draft Law on Amending the Press Law and Some Laws” in a comparative way. In this context, the prominent findings of the report are as follows.
The bill contains articles in parallel with the Digital Services Law in terms of making companies accountable by creating a framework for their responsibilities on various issues, especially controlling social networks and user privacy.
Although the inclusion of journalists engaged in internet broadcasting within the scope of the press is seen as a positive development, the authority to issue press cards is given to the Directorate of Communications. As the EU frequently mentions in its Turkey progress reports, question marks emerge regarding the independence of regulatory and supervisory institutions and the government’s ability to provide accredited journalist status considering the problems such as being a decision maker. This situation stands out as one of the most worrying items of the bill.
The ambiguity, definition of disinformation and other ambiguities in the article that stipulates taking measures against the spread of disinformation is the result of the regulation in other relevant legislation, especially the Law on the “Regulation of Broadcasts on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed Through These Broadcasts”, to bring them in line with European standards and to ensure that they are implemented in a way that does not restrict freedom of expression. It seems conducive to giving rise to practices that are likely to conflict with EU recommendations.
While the article of the bill envisaging the protection of children appears to be compatible with both the EU’s general policies and principles in this area and the Digital Services Law, the article that paves the way for social media users to be punished for sharing and liking is based on fundamental values such as the protection of human rights and dignity and anti-censorship. It seems far from the general framework of the “Brussels Bourgeois Internet Model” and the digital services law, which is shaped by this understanding and aims to protect users and create a more pluralistic and free digital communication environment.
The article of the law, which has been criticized for allowing users’ information to be shared, also raises concerns as it creates practices that are incompatible with the privacy principle underlying both the Digital Services Law and the GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation).