REEDOM ON THE
Under the new rules, ISPs are compelled to offer two filtering profiles to subscribers, the “child”
and “family” options. However, the filtering criteria have been criticized as arbitrary and
For example, the child filter blocks access to several websites advocating the
theory of evolution as well as the website of Richard Dawkins,
while some anti-evolution websites
remain accessible through the same filter.
The filter also blocks access to Facebook and the online
video-sharing website YouTube, in addition to Yasam Radyo (Radio Life) and the Armenian
minorities’ newspaper Agos.
While no detailed information is provided on the filtering process or
criteria, the BTK claimed in November 2012 that over one million home subscribers were using its
voluntary filtering system.
On November 4, 2011, a legal challenge was launched by Alternatif Bilişim Derne
i (the Alternative
Information Technologies Association), which asked the Council of State to annul the modified
BTK filtering policy on the grounds that it lacked legal basis. The Association further argued that
the BTK system discourages diversity by imposing a single type of family and moral values. The
case continued at the Council of State level during 2012 and a decision is expected during 2013.
During 2012, in response to a number of parliamentary written questions, the Ministry of
Education acknowledged that it uses the Fortiguard web filtering software at primary education
institutions. The Ministry also received public criticism for blocking access to a number of minority
news websites in January 2012.
Furthermore, in December 2012, the administrators of the
Turkish parliament rejected claims from members of parliament (MPs) that, within the parliament,
access to websites pertaining to the Alevi Islamic minority was blocked. In an earlier written
response dated February 27, 2012 to MP Ibrahim Binici, officials from the parliament admitted that
internet access from the parliament was filtered and that access to gambling, pornographic, gaming,
and terrorist websites is blocked.
In addition to widespread filtering, state authorities are proactive in requesting the deletion or
removal of content online. Google’s Transparency Report revealed that the number of content
removal requests the company received from Turkey between January and June 2012 increased by
1,013 percent compared to the previous six-month reporting period.
In relation to YouTube,
“New Internet Filtering System Condemned as Backdoor Censorship,” Reporters Without Borders, December 2, 2011,
Dorian Jones, “Turkey Blocks Web Pages Touting Darwin's Evolution Theory,” Voice of America, December 23, 2011,
Sara Reardon, “Controversial Turkish Internet Censorship Program Targets Evolution Sites,” Science Magazine, December 9,
“Agos'u Biz Değil Sistem Engelledi” [AGOS was filtered through the Ministry of Education filter. See Haber Merkezi], Bianet,
January 23, 2012, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/ifade‐ozgurlugu/135645‐agosu‐biz‐degil‐sistem‐engelledi.
See response to Ibrahim Binici dated 27 February 2012, TBMM response no. A.01.0.KKB.0.10.00.00‐120.07(7/3747)‐79795‐
Google, “Turkey,” Google Transparency Report, accessed July 11, 2013,
REEDOM ON THE
Google received 148 requests from the TIB to remove 426 videos, all due to alleged criticism of
Atatürk, the government, or national identity and values. Google took down 63 percent of those
The amount of requests decreased between July and December 2012. Turkish authorities
had requested to remove 17 YouTube videos and 22 Blogger posts. Google cooperated in 52
percent of cases related to YouTube, but did not remove any content on its Blogger service. In
addition, the company removed 6,851 out of 8,119 search results based on an order from a Turkish
court to remove copyright infringing material.
The procedures surrounding decisions to block websites, whether by the courts or the TIB, are
nontransparent, creating significant challenges for those seeking to appeal. Judges can issue
blocking orders during preliminary investigations as well as during trials. The reasoning behind
court decisions is not provided in blocking notices and the relevant rulings are not easily accessible.
As a result, it is often difficult for site owners to determine why their site has been blocked and
which court has issued the order. The TIB’s mandate includes executing judicial blocking orders,
but it can also issue administrative orders under its own authority for certain content. Moreover, in
some cases it has successfully asked content and hosting providers to remove offending items from
their servers, allowing it to avoid issuing a blocking order that would affect an entire website. This
occurs despite the fact that intermediaries are not responsible for third party content on their sites.
According to TIB statistics as of May 2009, the courts are responsible for 21 percent of blocked
websites, while 79 percent are blocked administratively by the TIB. The regulator has refused to
publish blocking statistics since then.
In December 2011, an administrative court in Ankara
rejected an appeal to obtain the official blocking statistics under Turkey’s freedom of information
law. A subsequent appeal to the Council of State, the highest administrative court in Turkey, was
lodged in January 2012 to obtain the statistics.
Furthermore, the database and user profiles of the BTK’s voluntary filtering system are controlled
and maintained by the government. The “Child and Family Profiles Criteria Working Committee”
was introduced in January 2012—almost three months after the new filtering system became
operational—to address concerns about the establishment of filtering criteria. However, the
formation of the committee itself raised concerns about its independence and impartiality: 7 of the
11 members of the committee are either from the BTK, the Family and Social Policies Ministry, or
the Internet Board, and 3 experts are selected and appointed by the BTK. Moreover, the principles
on which the committee will work remain unclear and there is no indication to suggest that the
Child and Family Profiles Criteria Working Committee conducts meetings or performs any work.
Despite the large number of websites blocked, circumvention tools are widely available, enabling
even inexperienced users to avoid filters and blocking mechanisms. Each time a new order is issued
and a popular website is blocked, a large number of articles are published to instruct users on how
to access the banned websites. As a demonstration of the extent of this phenomenon, during the
Reporters Without Borders, “Telecom Authority Accused of Concealing Blocked Website Figures,” news release, May 19,
REEDOM ON THE
two and a half year block of YouTube, the video-sharing website remained the eighth most-accessed
site in Turkey.
Turkish users increasingly rely on internet-based publications as a primary source of news, and
despite the country’s restrictive legal environment, the Turkish blogosphere is surprisingly vibrant
and diverse. There are a wide range of blogs and websites through which citizens question and
criticize Turkish politics and leaders, including issues that are generally viewed as politically
sensitive. The majority of civil society groups maintain an online presence and social-networking
sites such as Facebook, FriendFeed, and especially the microblogging platform Twitter are used for
social and political campaigns.
In May 2011, internet users organized a major protest against the introduction of the proposed
country-wide filtering system. The protest gathered approximately 50,000 people in Istanbul to
demand freedom from filtering and the abolishment of Law No. 5651.
Arguably, the protest and
its associated media coverage had a significant impact on the modification of the mandatory filtering
system into a voluntary one.
Shortly after it was discovered that Turkey’s largest ISP, TTNET, had installed the behavioral
advertising service Phorm on its networks in July 2012,
the Alternative Informatics Association
launched an online campaign to demand that TTNET end its relationship with the controversial
The association also submitted an official complaint with a public prosecutor’s office on
October 17, 2012.
Phorm has come under consistent criticism from governments, internet
companies, and privacy experts around the world. The company collects information on users’
online behavior without their knowledge, performing deep-packet inspection (DPI) to essentially
monitor a user’s connection line and create a profile of the individual’s online activities to then sell
The campaign resulted in a decision by the BTK to investigate TTNET’s use of the
Phorm system in December 2012.
The Turkish constitution includes broad protections for freedom of expression. Article 26 states
that “everyone has the right to express and disseminate his thought and opinion by speech, in
writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively.”
Turkish law and court
According to Alexa, a web information company, as of August 26, 2010, http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/TR.
“Turks marched against government censorship of the Internet in Istanbul,” CyberLaw Blog, July 19, 2010,
“Commencement of Commercial Activities in Turkey with TTNET,” Press Release, Phorm, July 9, 2012,
For the online campign, please see “EmPhormAsyon,” Accessed April 23, 2013 http://enphormasyon.org/english.html.
“Turkey: Internet Report on Digital Rights 2012,” EDRi‐gram newsletter, October 24, 2012, Digital Civil Rights in Europe,
BTK decision to investigate is available in Turkish: http://bit.ly/19ci5BR.
“The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey,” Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey, Accessed April 22, 2013,
REEDOM ON THE
judgments are subject to the European Convention on Human Rights and bound by the decisions of
the European Court of Human Rights. The constitution also seeks to guarantee the right to privacy,
although there are limitations on the use of encryption devices, and surveillance by security
agencies is highly prevalent. There are no laws that specifically criminalize online activities like
posting one’s opinions, downloading information, sending e-mail, or transmitting text messages.
Instead, many provisions of the criminal code and other laws, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law, are
applicable to both online and offline activity. Over the past year, only one user was sentenced to
prison, while many others received suspended sentences and fines.
Several recent court cases have illuminated how the existing laws are being used to prosecute
online activity. For example, in October 2011, the Anti-Terrorism Law was used to prosecute
journalist Recep Okuyucu for allegedly advocating terrorist propaganda by downloading Kurdish
music files and accessing the blocked Kurdish Firat News Agency website.
A Diyarbakir court found
him not guilty. More recently, Adana High Criminal Court No. 8 sentenced Metin Öztürk to nine
years and seven months imprisonment for sharing and disseminating terrorist propaganda through
Facebook in January 2013.
Ten people, including three university students, were arrested in
relation to the Redhack movement and face terrorism related charges, including membership in a
They have denied all charges and any association with Redhack, stating they
do not possess the technical knowledge required to hack into government servers. Redhack has
reiterated that the accused individuals have no ties with the group. Indeed, speaking through social
networks, Redhack stated that the terrorism allegations are simply part of the government’s
ongoing targeting of its domestic opponents.
Users are also prosecuted for posts that can be deemed as insulting state authorities. A 17-year-old
from northwest Turkey received a suspended sentence of 11 months and 20 days for insulting the
Prime Minister on Facebook in July 2012 after a five-month trial at the Balıkesir Juvenile Court.
In November 2012, a senior post office official named İbrahim Davuto
lu was sentenced by the
Zonguldak Penal Court of First Instance No. 2 to a fine of TRY 6,080 ($3,368) on charges of
“insulting a public officer due to the performance of his public duty” under Article 125 of the
Turkish Penal Code. The sentence was later reduced to five years of court supervision. According
to the court, Davuto
lu shared politically offensive news articles and caricatures on his Facebook
wall and insulted the prime minister.
A previous administrative investigation by the Turkish Post
and Telegraph Organization (PTT) found Davuto
lu guilty of "insulting state officers," which
resulted in his forced assignment to Ordu and Bartin provinces. The house of Irem Aksoy was
searched by the police subsequent to a tweet in which she criticized the Mayor of Ankara for his
“Court Acquits Journalist Who Interviewed Kurdish Separatist,” Reporters Without Borders, December 29, 2011,
See ‘Terrorist organization’? Turkish hackers face quarter‐century prison terms, 10 October, 2012 at
Suleyman Okan, “Kid Faces Jail Term After Insulting PM Erdoğan on Facebook,” Sosyalmedya.co, July 23, 2012,
Bianet, PM Critic Facebook User Fined, at http://ww.bianet.org/english/freedom‐of‐expression/142130‐pm‐critic‐facebook‐
REEDOM ON THE
comments on the issue of abortion. The 17-year-old student was detained by the police and a
criminal investigation was subsequently initiated. In March 2013, it was reported that she was
called to provide her statement by the office of the public prosecutor, which is investigating the
Even Turkish citizens living outside of the country can be targeted by state authorities. The owner
of the 5posta.org website, mentioned above, was prosecuted for publishing obscene materials
online. Among other topics, the author writes about issues of sexuality, the sex industry, and
internet censorship from his residence in Sweden. An Ankara court acquitted him of the charges in
The case that received the most media attention over the last year relates to the composer and
pianist Fazil Say. In June 2012, Say was charged with offending Muslims over posts he made on
Twitter, including an April 2012 tweet in which he joked about a call to prayer lasting only 22
seconds. Say was charged in June 2012 with inciting hatred and public enmity, as well as insulting
"religious values" under Section 216(3) of the criminal code.
He received a suspended sentence
of 10 months in prison, meaning that his sentence will not come into force unless he commits
another offense within five years.
However, subsequent to an appeal by his lawyers to annul the
sentence, a retrial was ordered in April 2013.
Furthermore, in January 2013, the office of
Istanbul’s Public Prosecutor initiated a criminal investigation against the board of PEN Turkey, a
division of the global writers association PEN International, related to a June 2012 article on its
website in which it protested against Say’s prosecution.
The board members were charged with
insulting state authorities under the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.
In another case related to blasphemy, Turkish-Armenian linguist and former columnist Sevan
anyan was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment in April 2013 for "publicly insulting the
religious values of part of the population." The allegations related to a blog entry he authored in
2012 about the "Innocence of Muslims" video which sparked protests across the Arab world.
“Liseli İrem Aksoy savcılıkta ifade verdi” [High schooler Irem Aksoy testifies], Aydinlik, March 6, 2013,
Ankara 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, Decision no 2013/7, 21.02.2013
The Guardian, Turkish pianist Fazil Say on trial for 'insulting Islam' on Twitter, 18 October 2012 at
Sebnem Arsu, “Pianist’s Post on Twitter Spur Penalty From Turkey,” New York Times, April 5, 2013,
Hürriyet Daily News, “Turkish pianist Fazıl Say to be retried on blasphemy charges,” 26 April 2013, at
The article in question refers to “fascist developments” in Turkey. See PEN International condemns investigation against PEN
Turkey for criticising the State, at http://www.pen‐international.org/newsitems/pen‐international‐condemns‐investigation‐
“Amendment Law Nr. 5759 of April 30, 2008 (Turkish),” April 30, 2008, http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/kanunlar/k5759.html.
See “Living by the ‘de jure’ sword,” Hurriyet Daily News, 24 May 2013 at http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/living‐by‐the‐de‐
jure‐sword.aspx?pageID=238&nID=47499&NewsCatID=398 See further Sevan Nisanyan: Turkish‐Armenian blogger jailed for
REEDOM ON THE
The constitution states that “secrecy of communication is fundamental,” and users are allowed to
post anonymously online. However, the anonymous purchase of mobile phones is not allowed and
buyers need to provide official identification. Turkey has yet to adopt a data protection law, though
the September 2010 amendments to the Turkish Constitution included data protection provisions.
In 2011, the use of encryption hardware and software became subjected to regulations introduced
by the BTK. Suppliers are now required to provide encryption keys to state authorities before they
can offer their products or services to individuals or companies within Turkey. Failure to comply
can result in administrative fines and, in cases related to national security, prison sentences.
The constitution specifies that any action that could potentially interfere with freedom of
communication or the right to privacy must be authorized by the judiciary. For example, judicial
permission is required for technical surveillance under the Penal Procedural Law. Despite
constitutional guarantees, most forms of telecommunication continue to be tapped and
Between 2008 and 2009, several surveillance scandals received widespread media
attention, and it is suspected that all communications are subject to interception by various law
enforcement and security agencies, including the Gendarmerie (military police). Some reports
indicate that every day, up to 50,000 phones—both mobile and land-line—are legally tapped, and
150,000 to 200,000 interception requests are made each year. During 2012, bugging related
stories continued to hit the headlines and even the Prime Minister claimed that bugging devices
were found in his home.
These surveillance practices have been challenged in court on at least one occasion. In 2008,
responding to complaints lodged by the TIB, the Supreme Court of Appeals overruled a lower
court’s decision to grant both the Gendarmerie and the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) the
authority to view countrywide data traffic retained by service providers.
powers to access and monitor data traffic have been granted to the MIT and the National Police
Department. Faced with criticism on the issue, in 2008 the parliament launched a major inquiry
into illegal surveillance and interception of communications, though the inquiry concluded in
January 2009 without finding any “legal deficiencies” in the interception regime. In January 2013, a
new parliamentary commission was set up with a similar goal and, during its initial investigation,
revealed that the Turkish Gendarmerie had intercepted the communications of 470,102 people
subject to 75,478 court orders during the last 10 years.
The commission is expected to conclude
its work later in 2013.
While government surveillance is an issue in Turkey, ISPs are not required to monitor the
information that goes through their networks, nor do they have a general obligation to seek out
For a history of interception of communications, see: Faruk Bildirici, Gizli Kulaklar Ulkesi [The Country of Hidden Ears]
(Istanbul: Iletisim, 1999); Enis Coskun, Kuresel Gozalti: Elektronik Gizli Dinleme ve Goruntuleme [Global Custody: Electronic
Interception of Communications and Surveillance] (Ankara: Umit Yayincilik, 2000).
The court stated that “no institution can be granted such authority across the entire country, viewing all people living in the
Republic of Turkey as suspects, regardless of what the purpose of such access might be.” See, “Supreme Court of Appeals
Overrules Gendarmerie Call Detail Access,” Today’s Zaman, June 6, 2008, http://www.todayszaman.com/tz‐web/news‐144038‐
See the Bianet article (in Turkish) at http://www.bianet.org/bianet/insan‐haklari/145087‐jandarma‐10‐yilda‐470‐bin‐kisiyi‐
REEDOM ON THE
illegal activity. However, all access providers, including cybercafe operators, are required to retain
all communications (traffic) data for one year. Administrative fines of TRY 10,000 to 50,000
($6,400 to $32,200) can be imposed on access providers if they fail to comply, but no ISP or other
provider has been prosecuted to date.
Although physical attacks in retribution for online posts are generally rare, technical attacks are
becoming increasingly common, particularly those targeting government websites. During 2011
and in early 2012, the international hacktivist collective known as Anonymous launched a successful
distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the Turkish government, taking down several
official government websites, including those of the TIB
and Turkish Social Security Institution
Furthermore, Anonymous hacked a consumer complaints website run by the BTK in
February 2012 and data relating to a considerable number of users was circulated through
During 2012, the Marxist-Socialist Redhack group infiltrated several
government websites and leaked confidential information. The group has over 675,000 followers
on Twitter and hacked into the servers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, and
the Turkish Higher Education Authority, among others, during 2012 and early 2013.
“Anonymous Hacked BTK Database,” Bianet, February 15, 2012, http://www.bianet.org/english/world/136178‐anonymous‐
See among others http://redhack.tumblr.com/post/40121086113/press‐release‐council‐of‐higher‐education‐of‐turkey and
extensive media coverage of Redhack’s activities through http://redhack.tumblr.com/archive.
REEDOM ON THE
There were no reports of internet content being blocked or filtered during the coverage
period, though various government officials publicly expressed the “need” to police
online discussions (see L
The Uganda Communications Act 2012 was passed in September, creating a new media
regulatory body that has been criticized for its lack of independence from the
government (see L
SIM card and mobile internet registrations continued through early 2013 amid concerns
that the registration requirements infringe on the right to privacy given the lack of a
necessary data protection law (see V
Government harassment for online writing was documented, while suspicions of
proactive government surveillance of online communications increased in the past year
Obstacles to Access (0-25)
Limits on Content (0-35)
Violations of User Rights (0-40)
*0=most free, 100=least free
REEDOM ON THE
Internet penetration has continued to grow in Uganda, and access is now estimated at 15 percent of
the population, with a growing number of Ugandans accessing the internet from their mobile
phones. Nevertheless, accessibility is still hindered by poor infrastructure, prohibitive costs, and
poor quality of service. Moreover, recent measures have exacerbated the rural-urban divide in
access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as a ban on counterfeit mobile
phones and compulsory SIM card registration. Overall, however, freedom to access the internet via
computer-based applications and mobile devices remains generally unfettered.
There were no reported incidents of government interference with ICTs in 2012 or early 2013,
though there have been increasing indications that the government intends to monitor online
discussions, as demonstrated by various statements made by government officials in 2012 calling for
the policing of social media platforms. The main threat to Uganda’s internet freedom in 2012
involved the passage of the Uganda Communications Act 2012 in September, which created a new
regulatory body for all print, broadcast, and electronic media in Uganda—the Uganda
Communications Regulatory Authority. Awaiting presidential assent as of mid-2013, the new law
vests an undue amount of power in the ICT minister to determine the regulatory body’s
membership, budget, and policy guidelines.
ICTs continued to expand across Uganda over the past year, resulting in increasing access to both
internet and mobile phone services. By the end of 2012, there were an estimated five million
internet users in the country for a penetration rate of nearly 15 percent, up from 13 percent in
2011 and just 4 percent in 2007, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
Broadband internet is available mostly in urban areas, with only 0.11 percent of the population
estimated to have fixed-line broadband subscriptions in 2012.
As such, many Ugandans access the
internet at cybercafés where it costs less than $1 for an hour of browsing. Meanwhile, mobile
phone penetration stood at 46 percent at the end of 2012
with a reported 17 million subscribers,
up from 4.2 million in 2007, though multiple SIM card ownership remains common.
Internet access via mobile devices is becoming increasingly popular due to the growing availability
of cheap mobile internet bundles, with mobile broadband penetration estimated at 7.6 percent at
the end of 2012.
An hour of mobile web browsing (equating to approximately 20Mb of data) costs
KGX 500 ($0.20), while a limited monthly bundle of 1Gb costs between KGX 30,000 and 41,000
International Telecommunication Union, “Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet, 2000‐2012,”
International Telecommunication Union, “Fixed (Wired)‐Broadband Subscriptions, 2000‐2012.”
International Telecommunication Union, “Mobile‐Cellular Telephone Subscriptions, 2000‐2012.”
International Telecommunication Union, “Uganda Profile 2012,” ICT‐Eye, http://www.itu.int/net4/itu‐
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested