the Council of Europe concerned about the draft law on “disinformation”

The Council of Europe considers that the Turkish bill criminalizing “disinformation“, currently under review by Ankara, constitutes a “obstacleto freedom of expression, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a “joint urgent noticepublished on Friday night with the Directorate General for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, the Venice Commission states “be worried about possible consequences” of the text, in particular of a risk of “reinforcement of self-censorshipahead of the next elections, in June 2023.

Although this advisory group, responsible for rule of law issues within the Council of Europe, recognizes the need to combat disinformation campaigns, it considers that there are already texts in the Turkish legal arsenal aimed at “the most dangerous aspects of ”false or misleading information”» and that there is no «urgent social need» adopt a text containing possible «arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression“.

In particular, the bill provides for a sentence of one to three years in prison for the “spread misleading informationand deprive journalists found guilty of this crime of their press cards.

The opinion of the Council of Europe considers that the Turkish text contravenes article 10 of the Convention that guarantees freedom of expression.

This opinion will be submitted for approval at the next plenary session of the Venice Commission on October 21 and 22.

Presented in parliament by MPs from the ruling party (AKP) at the end of May, the Turkish bill was adopted in September by two parliamentary committees.

On Tuesday, while the examination of the text began before the Turkish parliament in Ankara, several associations and unions of journalists had protested seeing in the bill an attempt at censorship by the authorities.

With less than a year to go before presidential and legislative elections scheduled for June 2023, Turkey’s head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is attempting to exert greater control over the press and social media, observers believe.

NGOs regularly denounce the erosion of press freedom in Turkey, which is ranked 149 out of 180 in the 2022 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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