Turks face strict censor in internet crackdown

August 31, 2001

Turkish universities are facing severe restrictions on the content of their webpages, as part of a crackdown by the government on the internet.

The new legislation is due to come into effect in October after parliament returns from its summer recess. It extends the strict laws on freedom of expression to include the internet.

Many writers, journalists and academics have been imprisoned for articles that fell foul of the legislation's catch-all phrase - "words which could incite racial, class, religious or ethnic hatred". The law has led to academics being imprisoned, in particular for writing books that criticised the state's treatment of Kurds living in Turkey.

Yaman Akdeniz of Leeds University a director of the British-based pressure group Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties, condemned the move. "The internet in Turkey has been a haven for freedom of expression, this new law will end that. This will have far-reaching consequences. Turkish universities will be affected, the internet is an important portal to providing a free and uncensored exchange of information both nationally and internationally."

The use of the internet by Turkish universities has exploded in the past few years. All of them have webpages, many of which have in-depth information on contentious issues that could be considered illegal if published.

The new law has drawn widespread condemnation, in particular from academics. Assistant professor Istar Gozaydin of Istanbul Technical University said: "This is an attack on all our personnel and academic freedom. If this new law is introduced then inevitably self-censorship will occur on university webpages."

The government dismissed such concerns and argued that the legislation would not be used against academics but rather those who threaten the state.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed the law but the government insisted it would be introduced.

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