UPDATE: Turkish President Signs Controversial Internet Law

Posted February 20th, 2014 at 12:23 pm (UTC+0)

Abdullah Gül (cbabdullahgul) on Twitter 2014-02-19 16-31-00

It’s official:  Turkey’s president has signed a controversial new internet law which will enable the government to block select websites and require web hosts to turn over individual browser histories.

President Abdullah Gül used Twitter to announce the news Tuesday, and this sparked an immediate Twitter drive by angry Turkish internet users using the hashtag #UnfollowAbdullahGül.

Associated Press says more than 80,000 Twitter users stopped following Gül as a result–but he still has, at the moment of this writing, 4.28 million Twitter followers.

The legislation has the potential to sorely restrict freedom of expression in Turkey and thus has been widely slammed by media groups, the European Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups.

In an earlier post, RePRESSed spoke with Turkish analyst Thomas Sorlie, who predicted that Gül’s signature would be a signal of support for the AKP Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of Turkey’s first direct presidential elections in August.

“With President Gül signing into law the newly established internet restrictions for Turkey, Gül has signaled his backing of the political position of the AKP, a party in which he was a founding member,” Sorlie tells RePRESSed.
“The speculation by pundits that he might split with the AKP and distance himself from Prime Minister Erdoğan should now give way to the possible implications for Turkish politics going forward from this point.”  – Turkey analyst Thomas Sorlie, Feb. 19, 2014
Sorlie predicts the AKP will likely win the upcoming elections, barring any unforeseen events.
“With this in mind, the details of the political structure internally within the AKP should now be emphasized,” he said.  “As it now stands, Prime Minister Erdoğan will be limited to running for President, as per AKP party rules. It is in this light that Turkish political analysis should now focus on.”
Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

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