A draft media law that would require Turkey's 27,000 or so Internet website operators to submit their pages to a prosecutor before publication sparked an outcry in the electronic broadcasting industry on Wednesday, May 30.
"This is a prohibitive approach that we will neither agree to nor stomach. We will fight until we obstruct this law and will struggle against it even if it is passed," said Rahmi Aktepe, head of the Informatics Association of Turkey.
The government-backed bill says registered websites would have to employ a responsible manager and present copies of pages to a prosecutor and governor's office prior to publication.
If the bill was approved, the regulations would apply to all electronic broadcasts carrying text or pictures. The legislation would also require new Internet service providers (ISPs) to seek permission from the authorities before launching operations.
Sector officials said the law, part of wider legislation governing the media, would severely curb the activities of Turkish Internet providers, already suffering from the effects of an acute financial crisis.
Managers, denouncing the legislation as repressive, cautioned it would have an adverse impact on Turkey's image as it sought European Union membership. The EU has urged Turkey to reform its chequered human rights record, including curbs on the freedom of expression.
"They can do this in Saudi Arabia, but do we want to be like Saudi Arabia or Iran? We are working to enter the EU, this law is not an application in line with EU norms," says Savas Unsal, general manager of Turkey's leading Internet service provider, Superonline.
Turkey boasts four to five million Internet users and subscribers were doubling every year until economic crisis struck in February, according to the industry.
Turkey's ISPs say services are already disrupted by the poor facilities of the state-owned landline company Turk Telekom, which also has a monopoly on Internet infrastructure. Turkey's parliament is due to vote on the law, presented by the majority coalition government, in the coming days. ― (Reuters, Istanbul)
By Birsen Altayli
© Reuters 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)