The new media law in Türkiye: what's actually at stake?

The new media law in Türkiye: what's actually at stake?
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Dicle Demir

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

On 18.10.2022, a new act (Act No. 7418)  came into force in Türkiye which amended many acts including the Media Act (Act No. 5187) and the Turkish Penal Code (“the TPC”). [1] The new act, which is referred to as the ‘Censorship Act’ among the public, brings, among others, two significant changes into the Turkish legal system: it creates the crime of publicly disseminating misleading information (Ar. 217/A of the TPC), and regulates the sharing of user information with authorities by social media companies.

The most problematic aspect of the new crime of ‘dissemination of misleading information’ is rightfully highlighted as the the threat of criminalization of expressing critical views which go against the official narratives. [2] Notwithstanding the broad wording of the title, Ar. 217/A of the TPC requires additional objective and subjective elements for the crime to occur, for example, ‘the sole aim’ of the alleged perpetrator ‘of creating anxiety, fear or panic among the public’ must be established and the act should be conducted ‘in a manner that is prone to disturb public peace’. However, the core problem underlying the new regulation is the disputed nature of what constitutes ‘misleading information’. Although there is always room for interpretation for the judiciary, even in criminal proceedings, of the law, the new provision does not clearly define what sorts of expression would be deemed ‘misleading’ and how such an assessment would be carried out by the courts. On the same note, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe pointed out the possible chilling effect and self-censorship the provision would generate, especially in times of elections. [3]

The interface between the newly established crime of disseminating misinformation and social media is found in the amendments to the Act No. 5651, regulating inter alia internet service providers. Following the amendments, social media companies now must share with authorities user data of the users who post content constituting a number of crimes, including misleading information. The experts noted however that the companies are likely to not comply with the said obligation due to their own company policies on personal data safety. [4] The outcome of such a conflict is also prescribed by the new law: a court can order for the reduction of their bandwidth by %90, which in practice translates into a total ban for the said social media website. This sanction could seriously hamper the role of social media in the follow-up to the elections which are scheduled to be held in June 2023. The interpretation and application of the new law remain undetermined for now but cause serious concern for the freedom of expression in Türkiye.

Sources and further reading

[1] Act No. 7418 as published in the official gazette of the Republic of Türkiye, original text in Turkish <> accessed 6 November 2022.

[2]Reuters, ‘Turkey's parliament adopts media law jailing those spreading 'disinformation'’ (October 14, 2022) <> accessed 6 November 2022.

[3] European Commission for Democracy through Law, ‘Urgent Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission and the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe on the Draft Amendments to the Penal Code Regarding the Provısıon on “False or Misleading Information”’ (7 October 2022) <> accessed 6 November 2022.

[4] Duvar English, ‘Social media companies might resist Turkey's new 'disinformation law'’ (22 October 2022) <> accessed 6 November 2022.