Freedom House ranks internet in Turkey as “not free”
Internet in Turkey has been ranked once again as “not free” according to a classification by the Freedom House in its “Freedom on the Net 2022” report, as a new censorship law brought jail sentences up to 2 years for social media users who ”disseminate false news.”
Turkey's score further declined from 34 last year to 32, as a result of the observations made between June 1, 2021 and May 31, 2022, Freedom House said.
According to Freedom House, the government in Turkey forced platforms to remove content, primarily from independent and critical media outlets' websites. Thousands of online users, including members of the political opposition, faced criminal charges for their social media activities. Self-censorship, the proliferation of progovernment outlets, and blocking of independent media websites has created a less diverse online space in Turkey.
Freedom House also criticized the new “disinformation law” that was approved in Turkish Parliament last week and said the law could further strengthen the government’s control over the online space.
“The law is expected to assist the governing alliance in silencing opposition parties and critical media coverage ahead of the June 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections; as of the end of the coverage period, all potential opposition candidates are polling higher than President Erdoğan,” the organization said in its country report about Turkey.
Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran “not free”; Armenia, Georgia “free”
In the report, the internet in some of the neighboring countries was also labelled “not free” as others performed better in online freedom.
Russia ranked the world’s third worst country in internet freedom with 23 points after Vietnam and Myanmar.
The already restrictive online environment in Russia deteriorated dramatically during the coverage period. After the military invasion of Ukraine, the government moved to block prominent social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and issued massive fines to other platforms that refused to remove content and localize user data, the report said.
Azerbaijan was ranked “not free” either as the government continued to manipulate the online information landscape, blocking numerous independent and opposition websites.
The recently enacted media law in Azerbaijan places further restrictions on online media outlets and creates hurdles for those who try to establish a new outlet, Freedom House said.
However, internet in Armenia was ranked as “free” with 74 points largely due to the lifting of restrictions on the free flow of information that the government implemented in the previous coverage period, the report said.