Concern grows over the “disinformation bill’s” potential effects on human rights
Turkey – The adoption by Turkey’s Parliament of a package of revisions to several pieces of legislation “that risk limiting freedom of expression” in the nation alarmed the UN human rights office (OHCHR) more and more on Friday.
One of the changes is a penal code modification that creates prison terms of up to three years for “publicly distributing false information” on online forums.
“Under international human rights law”, freedom of expression applies to “information and ideas of all types,” both online and offline. It is not just restricted to “truthful” information. Only justifiable and necessary reasons should be considered when placing restrictions on the right to free speech,” the UN Rights Office spokesman Marta Hurtado cautioned in a statement.
Ms. Hurtado emphasized that there is a lot of space for “arbitrary, subjective interpretation and abuse” as a result of the revisions.
She emphasized that the amendments “risk further restricting people’s rights to seek, receive, and impart information as guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Türkiye is party,” and that they also run the risk of creating new opportunities for the repression of journalists and human rights advocates and encouraging self-censorship.
Volker Türk’s office expressed regret over the laws’ drafting and adoption without meaningful input from media and civil society representatives and reminded Türkiye that legal and regulatory frameworks with such broad potential scope and impact should only be adopted following extensive public discussion.
“Any democracy must have the freedom of expression and access to information for citizens to effectively participate in public and political life. We demand that Turkey uphold the full guarantee of the right to free expression provided by international law”, Ms. Hurtado said.