published : 2023-11-08

Turkish High Court Upholds Controversial Law Criminalizing 'Disinformation'

Those spreading information 'contrary to the truth' face up to 3 years in prison

An image of the Constitutional Court building, capturing the significance of the court's decision in upholding the controversial media law. Taken with a Canon EOS R6.

Turkey’s highest court has upheld a controversial media law mandating prison terms for individuals found to be spreading 'disinformation.' The law, which was approved a year ago with the support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party, imposes up to three years of imprisonment for journalists and social media users convicted of disseminating information deemed 'contrary to the truth.' The legislation covers a wide range of topics, including domestic and international security, public order, and health.

The main opposition party had sought to annul the law, arguing that it would further stifle government critics by cracking down on social media and independent reporting. However, the Constitutional Court rejected the request, leading to heightened concerns over media freedoms and free speech in the country.

A photo of a journalist passionately reporting in front of a crowd, symbolizing the dedication to press freedom and the risks faced by those who speak out against disinformation. Taken with a Nikon D850.

Since its implementation last year, around 30 people have already faced prosecution under the law, according to reports. Recently, investigative journalist Tolga Sardan was arrested under the legislation for allegedly engaging in disinformation regarding his report on corruption allegations within the judiciary. Sardan was later released but faces trial and restrictions on his activities.

President Erdoğan has long advocated for a law targeting disinformation and fake news, citing their threats to national and global security as well as the rise of 'digital fascism.' Nevertheless, freedom of expression and media freedoms in Turkey have significantly declined over the years, with the country ranking low in press freedom indexes. Currently, 19 journalists and media workers are behind bars, as reported by the Journalists’ Union of Turkey.