VIENNA, 15 April 2016 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović expressed concern today about the state of Internet freedom in Turkey, following the blocking of the Russian news agency Sputnik’s website in the country.
“This blocking is only the latest in a series of issues that I have voiced over the years with regard to freedom of expression on the Internet in Turkey”, Mijatović said. “The problems stem from several provisions of Law 5651 that have been used to block websites in the country.”
On 14 April, Turkey’s telecommunications authority TİB, citing technical analysis and legal consideration based on Article 8/A of Law Nr. 5651, blocked the Sputnik news website by an administrative measure. The news agency said they were not notified of the decision ahead of time.
“Blocking websites is a highly disproportionate measure. It impedes on the public’s right to access information on the Internet and negatively impacts media pluralism and free expression,” Mijatović said, adding that currently more than 110,000 websites and thousands of news and social media related URLs are reportedly blocked from Turkey, many without judiciary oversight.
In March 2016 the Representative’s Office published the OSCE Guidebook on Media Freedom on the Internet (www.osce.org/fom/226526), which, among others, warns that blocking is not an effective method to address problems associated with Internet content and could have serious side effects including over-blocking.
“The Internet Law of Turkey remains in urgent need of reform. My Office stands ready to assist the authorities with this very important step towards increasing freedom of expression online,” Mijatović said.
The Representative’s Office has been calling for the fundamental reform of Law 5651 for several years; besides numerous public statements on this issue, two legal reviews were commissioned by the Office on the Law, in January 2010 (www.osce.org/fom/41091) and in January 2014 (www.osce.org/fom/110823).