ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey’s main opposition party petitioned the country’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking a suspension of a newly approved media law that prescribes jail terms for people deemed to be spreading “disinformation.”
Last week, parliament approved a 40-article bill amending press and social media laws with the stated goal of combating fake news. Critics fear the measure will be used to further clamp down on social media and independent reporting as the country nears elections.
The law, which was approved by the votes of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies, came into effect with publication in the Official Gazette earlier on Tuesday.
The most controversial provision, Article 29, provides a sentence of up to three years in prison for spreading information that is “contrary to the truth” about Turkey’s domestic and international security, public order and health for the alleged purpose of causing “public concern, fear and panic.”
Engin Altaj, a senior member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, submitted a request to the Constitutional Court to suspend the application of Article 29.
“This is a law that (aims) to present (the government’s) lies as the truth, and the truth as a lie cannot be accepted,” Altay told reporters after submitting the petition.
The party will later seek annulment of the entire law, he said.
Erdogan pushed for legislation to combat disinformation and fake news, saying fake news and growing “digital fascism” are threats to national and global security. His Justice and Development Party and nationalist allies say disinformation is denying people access to the truth, undermining freedom of expression.
The ruling party denies that the law is intended to silence critics.