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General rapporteur on media freedom seriously concerned by the new social media bill in Turkey

Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on media freedom and the protection of journalists, today expressed his serious concerns about the social media bill that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey submitted on 21 July to parliament.

“According to the proposed bill, the social media platforms will be forced to open offices in Turkey and their representatives will be held accountable in legal affairs. They will also have to pass on notifications from the Turkish authorities to their subscribers and be asked to store users' data in Turkey. If social media companies refuse to appoint local representatives, they will be subjected to severe financial sanctions and their bandwith will be throttled up to 90 percent,” specified the rapporteur.

“Moreover, according to the bill, the social media must respond within 48 hours to users’ complaints or to judicial orders to remove content, otherwise websites would be rendered inaccessible within 4 hours,” he added.

“Clearly, the AKP’s goal is to further strengthen its control over social media platforms - which are the only remaining harbour for critical journalism, independent information and dissenting opinions in Turkey - thus inevitably leading to self-censorship,” Mr Schennach said.

“Therefore, I call on Turkish members of parliament to seriously ponder the consequences of their vote for the freedom of expression and information in their country and reject the proposed bill,” concluded the rapporteur.