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Watchdog condemns Turkish Internet bill

The Committee to Protect Journalists has come out against a proposed Internet bill in Turkey that many believe will give the government stricter control over online censorship.

Turkey has been plagued with corruption and Internet freedom issues for quite some time as citizens continue to grow displeased with how the government is operating. Tensions really began to show themselves during the protests of Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013, and have only escalated since.

Corruption and control
One of the more recent scandals is one concerning corruption in Turkey. Numerous government officials including the son and business associates of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The investigation was made public in mid-December of last year.

Equally as concerning is how the government subsequently reacted. While many of these politicians were removed, the government responded with a very controversial piece of legislation. CPJ reported that the government proposed amendments to the country's Internet law that would allow the government to block sites without judicial review and require Internet Service Providers to track and store user data.

The Internet law that is currently in place is already being used to block news websites along with video posting sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

Speaking out against the law
Numerous parties have come out against the legislation, especially as the state of free expression in the country continues to deteriorate. The CPJ contends that such legislation will be a detriment to democracy in Turkey as it will impose further limits on investigative journalists. In a country that has been mired with scandals of corruption and government discontent, this could have severe negative effects. More over, the CPJ believes that this legislation will let Turkey continue to slide into "Internet authoritarianism."

The legislation has already begun to have a negative effect on alternative news sources within the country. Vagus TV is an online news program that had over 1.5 million monthly visitors before being shut down, according to Al Jazeera.

"What is awful about the decision is, it's pre-emptive," Editor in Chief Serdar Akinan told the news source. "The bureaucrats, who claim they can enforce this decision, now behave as if they were a court. But when I go to court, the judges and prosecutors say they don't know about the decision"

Al Jazeera noted that in the past it took a matter of days before it could shut down a website – under the new rules it will take hours. It is important that the Turkish government listen to the concerns of those living in the country in order to help promote greater transparency and democracy.

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