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Turkey's new bill on 'Influence agents'

1 min

Turkey's parliament is set to review a contentious bill that could significantly alter the landscape of freedom of expression and press freedom in the country. 

The bill poses a significant threat to journalists and researchers © Mena Today 

Turkey's parliament is set to review a contentious bill that could significantly alter the landscape of freedom of expression and press freedom in the country. 

The proposed legislation, aimed at punishing so-called 'agents of influence,' has sparked fears of further erosion of democratic norms under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration.

The bill, an amendment to the Turkish penal code, introduces severe penalties ranging from three to seven years in prison for anyone accused of conducting or sponsoring research that acts against the state's security or political interests, both domestically and internationally, on behalf of foreign organizations or states. 

Although the bill lacks specific details on the activities it targets, MHP vice-president Feti Yildiz listed several sectors including economy, finance, military, national defense, public health, public security, order, technology, culture, transport, communication, cyberspace, critical infrastructure, and energy.

The proposed law has drawn parallels with similar legislation recently passed in Georgia, dubbed the "Russian law" by critics, which led to substantial protests in Tbilisi. 

Researchers and journalists within Turkey have expressed concerns that the law could be used to stifle free speech rather than combat espionage. Muhammet Ali Yunus, a local researcher, argues that the law is more about controlling social media and public discourse than protecting national security.

The bill poses a significant threat to journalists and researchers, particularly those funded by international sources. Emre Kongar, a writer and contributor for the newspaper Cumhuriyet, described the law on social media platform X as creating a broad and vague crime that could lead to witch hunts under the guise of rooting out espionage.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed alarm over the bill, highlighting the lack of safeguards to prevent judicial abuses. Erol Onderoglu, RSF's representative in Turkey, voiced concerns that the law could target journalists working for internationally funded media outlets, further undermining the already precarious state of press freedom in Turkey.

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