International Journalists Association: Turkish government will use new disinformation law to pursue opponents

FRANKFURT — The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) issued a statement explaining how the Turkish government could exploit the proposed “disinformation and fake news” law to fight and eliminate its opponents under false pretexts and called on Turkish Parliament to vote against the bill.

If such a measure were to become law, it would allow the government to support pro-government news websites while outlawing critical media that was seen to have violated the disinformation statute due to its ambiguous definitions of “disinformation” and “intent”, said the IFJ.

The bill would become yet another tool of the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to restrict press freedom and escalate the country’s campaign against journalists and journalism that stray from the government’s narrative, says the IFJ.

A prison sentence to punish “fake news” and “disinformation” is one of the 40 clauses of the bill that would amend the existing Press Law governing the press and media. Social media platforms and websites would be compelled to provide information on users suspected of publicly disseminating “misleading information” and journalists could be sentenced to up to three years in prison for sharing information that contradicts or is critical of government statements. The operations of opposition media and activists would therefore be jeopardized, and a wave of self-censorship might be observed online, according to the statement.

The measure, the culmination of several initiatives started throughout Erdogan’s 20 years in office, unsurprisingly comes at a time when Erdogan faces his most difficult election ever, with the support ratings of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) at their lowest point ever.

The IFJ and EFJ called on all members of Turkey’s parliament who value freedom and democracy to vote against the bill.