Erdogan & ally to propose spy bill to stifle dissent

Turkey’s new spy bill, compared to Russia’s, may limit journalists and civil society, sparking fears of further curbing freedom of expression…


A reported new spy bill in Turkey, which is being compared to Russia’s foreign agent law, is sparking concerns that journalists and civil society will face greater limits on freedom of expression.


The Ankara-based Anka News Agency wrote that the law would imprison people who work on behalf of foreign countries or organizations that oppose the interests of the Turkish state.


The pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak stated that the government is developing a law about so-called influence agents who are accused of using propaganda against Turkey on social media.


The state news website TRT Haber also reported that the Turkish government is working on a bill to define a new type of espionage connected to foreign intelligence organizations.


Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı, the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara office director, told The Media Line that he is concerned the law would be applied arbitrarily and that the priority would be to discourage dissent.


They tend to frighten innocent, law-abiding citizens while they do not deter potential criminals.


“They tend to frighten innocent, law-abiding citizens while they do not deter potential criminals,” he said.


“Foreign-funded NGOs, foreign-funded media groups, media platforms, and even individual journalists receiving foreign funds would immediately come to mind. So, basically, anyone could be accused,” Ünlühisarcıklı said.


In the 2024 press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, Turkey placed 158th out of 180 countries. The report cited that while seven journalists are currently behind bars, many more have been imprisoned in the past.


News consumers in the country have often turned to Turkish-language websites run by foreign government-funded news organizations for independent reporting amid a clampdown on the press.


In 2022, Turkey’s media regulator said that it had blocked the websites of US-funded Voice of America and German-funded Deutsche Welle because they had not obtained the licenses required by the government.


Ünlühisarcıklı said that Ankara may have been inspired to create the new bill by laws in both Russia and Georgia.


Georgia has seen mass protests for weeks because the government is attempting to pass a bill that would require NGOs and news organizations to register as agents pursuing foreign interests if they get more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources.


White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter that the US was alarmed at democratic backsliding in Georgia.


Media restrictions in Turkey accelerated after the 2013 anti-government Gezi Park protests and intensified even more after the failed 2016 coup attempt.


Reporters Without Borders stated that 90% of national media in Turkey is under government control, and in the run-up to last year’s national elections, dozens of Kurdish journalists were arrested.

Earlier this month, police tear-gassed and shot at journalists with rubber bullets while they covered a banned protest, according to the global non-profit organization the Committee to Project Journalists.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.