UN says new anti-disinformation law in Turkey leaves door open to “arbitrary abuse”

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has shown Friday its concern about the law passed in Turkey against disinformation that provides for penalties of up to three years in prison for the dissemination of “fake news”, ensuring that it leaves the door open to interpretation and a possible “arbitrary abuse” and “subjective”.

“In an already very restrictive context, they risk further limiting the rights of individuals to seek, receive and impart information, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkey is a party,” said a spokeswoman for the UN office, Marta Hurtado.

In this sense, she has pointed out that, according to International Law, freedom of expression is not limited to “truthful” information, but applies to “information and ideas of all kinds”, while stressing that “freedom of expression and access to information are necessary for the effective participation of people in public and political life and essential in any democracy”.

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“We regret that these laws have been drafted and adopted without meaningful consultation with civil society and media representatives,” he has said, adding that such broad “legal and regulatory frameworks” should have a “wide public debate.”

Finally, Hurtado called on the Turkish authorities to guarantee “full respect for the freedom of expression guaranteed by international law,” a warning that was also shared by the European Union, which expressed fear that this new law could be used to limit freedoms.

Turkey’s Parliament on Thursday passed a disinformation law that will punish the dissemination of “fake news” with up to three years in prison. Article 29 of the law paves the way for journalists and social media users to be sentenced to up to three years in prison for “disseminating misleading information to the public.” In the event that the perpetrator committed this offense by concealing his true identity or within the framework of the activities of an organization, the penalty in question will be increased.

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