News Column

From censorship to conspiracy

February 14, 2014

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- It is said that the government's new Internet bill aims to reinforce censorship. One of the changes introduced by this bill is the requirement for Internet service providers (ISPs) to store information about Internet traffic.

The minimum period of such storage was six months in the past; now, ISPs are required to store this information for a minimum of one year and for two years maximum. This information is about website visits by users and the duration of such visits. In European Union countries, this information is stored for longer periods.

The second point is preventing access to a news story which infringes or which is claimed to infringe on the privacy of people upon a request by the people concerned or at the initiative of the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB). But it is possible to raise an objection to this decision as the website in question may apply to a court and obtain a court order for the re-posting of the prohibited content. Moreover, the prohibition is now done at the URL level without banning the entire site, as was the case in the past. Formerly, a person had to apply to a court for the prohibition of the content that violated his/her privacy, but it would take four days in the most expedient manner or 10 days normally for a court to issue such an order, and delays were experienced in redressing victimization. Now, it will be possible to prohibit the Internet content roughly in one day, and then the court order will be sought.

This is the "censorship." Apparently, some people are ready to believe that the government is censoring the Internet. Yet, people should have examined what has really changed. On the other hand, the bill is not "politically" innocent. It is a problematic move to require the government's prior approval to launch a judicial investigation of TIB. This is clearly a move to facilitate the way the ruling party "manages" the post-Dec. 17 investigation era. Apparently, the government is reinforcing its bulwarks in the face of potential developments and seeks to buy itself time by expeditiously preventing unfavorable posts on the Internet.

The Internet bill is a good example of the government's strategy. The meaning of reshuffling thousands of police officers can also be found here. In other words, this is a pre-emptive move to prevent something that may happen, not to change what has happened. Some people are repeating the illogical argument that the police chiefs were reshuffled in order to cover up the graft investigation. However, the case files about the graft investigation were referred to court and even the new court did not release the suspects. In other words, the graft investigation will run its due course. Why did the government opt to reshuffle thousands of police chiefs? It believes there is an operation against itself and this operation will continue. At this point, the government is mainly concerned not with covering up corruption, but with preventing future threats.

Those who see that the electoral support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not fallen in surveys but who don't want to believe their eyes should understand that this uneasiness is largely shared by conservative groups. These groups don't want a party which they identify with to be undermined or subjected to a conspiracy. The prime minister frequently uses the word "conspiracy" because he is aware of this uneasiness in the party's voter bank. Westerners or secularists do not believe in these conspiracy theories, especially when they are voiced by the prime minister. You may justifiably guess that Recep Tayyip Erdogan's vague accusations will not be respected. But it shouldn't be forgotten that Erdogan is sending society a message which is not altogether meaningless.

Simply put, the meaning of this "conspiracy" discourse for the religious and conservative groups is: The government is facing something which is not normal and well-meaning. Accordingly, the AKP's votes have not fallen and probably will not.


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Source: Cihan News Agency (Turkey)

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