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Turkey’s censorship law is harming independent media outlets

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Journalists and activists are raising concerns over a new law in Turkey that gives the government more tools to go after independent media and censor dissent ahead of next year’s presidential elections where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could seek another term.

The Turkish parliament passed a law criminalizing “fake news,” which carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.

Chief editor at independent news outlet dokuz8NEWS, Gokhan Bicici said the government already has enough ammunition to censor dissent and independent journalism, including anti-terror and defamation laws. Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of people, including school-going teenagers have been arrested under a law that prohibits insulting the president.

“Prosecution, investigation, and threats are part of our daily life,” said Bicici. “Being more careful, trying as much as possible not to be a target is the main concern of many journalists in Turkey today, including the most free ones.”

The government claims the purpose of the law is to fight disinformation and has even begun publishing a “disinformation bulletin” on a weekly basis. Erdogan himself has defended the law, saying it was urgently needed because “smear campaigns” on social media are equivalent to a “terrorist attack.”

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