Turkey remains ‘Not Free’ in Internet freedom - Freedom House

Turkey has seen a decline in Internet freedom since last year, sliding by two points to score 35 out of 100, according to an annual report by democracy watchdog Freedom House.

Internet freedom in Turkey has declined over the last year after Ankara temporarily blocked social media platforms, passed legislation imposing tight restrictions on social media companies and harassed, arrested, and detained journalists, activists, and bloggers, the report said, tracking Internet freedoms between June 1, 2019 - May 31, 2020.

“More independent media platforms were blocked through government-issued requests,” it said, adding that hundreds of social media users were arrested or questioned for “posting ostensibly false information about the COVID-19 pandemic,” while “citizen journalists and opposition members continued to be sentenced to prison for content they posted online.”

Turkey in July adopted a new social media law that makes foreign social media sites more accountable by requiring them to appoint a local representative to address authorities’ concerns, among other measures.

The law also forces compliance with “blocking orders from the government or individuals within 48 hours or they will face steep fines up to $700,000,” but procedures surrounding blocking decisions are opaque, it added, creating significant obstacles for those seeking to appeal.

Citing a 2019 report by Turkish censorship watchdog EngelliWeb, Freedom House said there were 408,494 websites that were blocked in Turkey at the end of 2019.

Moreover, throughout 2019, the Internet Regulations Law was used to block access to “5,599 news articles and 3,528 were later removed by the publishing news portals,” the report said.

The Turkish government has intensified a crackdown on Internet freedom following the failed coup attempt of July 2016, after which it moved to block numerous news and citizen journalism websites, particularly those that are critical of the government.