A new law gives Turkey fresh ammunition to censor media and silence dissent ahead of elections in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to extend his two decades in power, journalists and activists say.
Since 2014, when Erdogan became president, tens of thousands of people, from high school teenagers to a former Miss Turkey, have been prosecuted under a longstanding law that criminalizes insulting the president.
The law, passed in parliament in October, could see journalists and social media users jailed for up to three years for spreading what is described as “fake news”.
“Lawsuits, investigations and threats are part of our daily lives,” Gokhan Bicici, editor-in-chief of the Istanbul-based independent news portal dokuz8NEWS, told AFP at his bank news portal’s headquarters. Bosphorus Asian.
“Being more careful, trying as much as possible not to be a target is the main concern of many journalists in Turkey today, including the freest ones.”
Press advocates say the new law could allow authorities to shut down the internet, preventing the public from hearing claims by exiled Turkish mafia boss Sedat Peker about the government’s alleged dirty business.
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Or, they say, the government could restrict access to social media as it did after the November 13 bombing in Istanbul that killed six people and which authorities blamed on the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK).
Most of Turkey’s allied-run newspapers and TV stations toe the government line, but social networks and internet-based media have remained largely free, much to Erdogan’s chagrin.
Next June he will face his toughest election since becoming prime minister in 2003 and then winning the presidency.
His ruling party’s approval ratings have plummeted to historic lows amid skyrocketing inflation and a currency crisis.
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