Recent Developments on Press Law
With the “Law Amending the Press Law” (“Amendment Law”) published in the Official Gazette dated October 18, 2022 and numbered 31987, various regulations were made within the scope of combating disinformation, especially internet new sites and press cards.
I. Amendments Related With Internet News Sites
With the Amendment Law; internet news sites have been included in the scope of periodicals. According to the Amendment Law, internet news sites are defined as "periodical publications established and operated on the internet to present written, visual or audio content that is news or commentary at regular intervals."
It is now mandatory for internet news sites to include their workplace address, trade name, e-mail address, contact telephone number, and electronic notification address, as well as the name and address of the hosting provider, under the communication heading. These details must be easily accessible to users directly from the home page of the website.
Furthermore, the Amendment Law also requires that the date when a content on internet news sites was first presented and the subsequent update dates should be indicated on the content in a way that does not change each time it is accessed.
(ii) Submitting a Declaration
The inclusion of internet news sites in the scope of periodicals has led to the obligation of submitting a declaration to the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor of the place of administration. The amendment now requires the declaration to include the electronic notification address as one of the mandatory elements.
Under the Amendment Law, if the declaration and its annexes do not contain the required or accurate information, or if the owner, representative or responsible manager fails to meet the necessary qualifications, the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor may request the website to correct the deficiencies or inaccurate information within two weeks.
If the website fails to comply with the request within the given timeframe, the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor may file an application to the criminal court of first instance to determine that the internet news site is not qualified. However, it should be noted that no restrictions are allowed to stop the broadcasting of news on the internet.
(iii) Delivery and Storage Obligation
The Amendment Law has introduced a new obligation of delivery and preservation for internet news sites. According to the new regulation, internet news sites are required to keep the contents they publish for a period of two years, so that they can be delivered to the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office upon request.
Moreover, in cases where a written notification is received by the internet news site that the publication is subject to investigation and prosecution by the judicial authorities, it is mandatory to keep records of the publication that is being investigated until the conclusion of these proceedings.
Failure to comply with the delivery and preservation obligation may result in a heavy fine of between three hundred million lira to one billion lira being imposed on the responsible manager of the internet news site.
(iv) Correction and Reply Letter
The Amendment Law now requires that internet news sites provide a correction and reply letter mechanism for injured parties. According to this new regulation, it is the responsibility of the responsible manager of the website to publish the correction and reply article in the same fonts and style, and to provide a URL link to the original article within one day from the date of receipt of the correction and reply article. It is important to note that the correction and reply article must be published without any modifications or additions made by the responsible manager of the internet news site.
II. Amendments Subjected to Press Card Regulations
With the changes made by the Amendment Law, provisions on press card application and cancellation, conditions, types and Press Card Commission are also included.
(i) Press Card Quality and Types
The Amendment Law has introduced significant changes to the press card system. According to the new regulations, the press card is now recognized as an official identity document, and press card applications will be made to the Directorate of Communications.
The Amendment Law has also introduced different types of press cards with their own specific definitions. The types of press cards and their definitions are as follows:
- Engaged Press Card: This type of press card is issued to Turkish citizen media members and information officers who are working for a media organization in Turkey.
- Timed Press Card: This type of press card is issued to foreign media members whose field of duty covers Turkey.
- Temporary Press Card: This type of press card is issued to foreign media members who come to Turkey for news coverage, even if their field of duty does not normally cover Turkey.
- Free Press Card: This type of press card is issued to Turkish citizen media members who do not work temporarily or as freelance journalists abroad.
- Permanent Press Card: This type of press card refers to a lifetime press card that is issued to media members and information officers who have at least eighteen years of professional service.
These new regulations are designed to clarify the press card system and ensure that media members have the necessary identification to carry out their work in Turkey.
(ii) Conditions for Obtaining a Press Card
With the Amendment Law, the eligibility criteria and application process for press cards have been specified for individuals and foreign media members. Eligibility criteria for individual applicants include being at least 18 years old, having graduated from at least a high school or equivalent educational institution, not being restricted or prohibited from public services, not engaging in commercial activities other than media activities, not being convicted of certain crimes, and having a contract in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 5953.
For foreign media members, they must provide proof that they are assigned by a media organization and have work permits in accordance with International Labor Law No. 6735, as well as a letter of introduction from the embassy, embassy or consulate in Turkey of the country where the organization they are affiliated with is headquartered.
Moreover, the Amendment Law specifies that the "principle of reciprocity" will be observed in granting press cards to foreign press members. The Press Card Commission has also been established, and provisions for the cancellation of press cards and their consequences have been included in the Amendment Law. As internet news sites are also considered as periodicals under this law, they will be eligible to obtain a press card provided that they meet the necessary conditions.
III. Official Proclamation And Advertisements
With the Amendment Law, the Law on the Establishment of the Press Advertisement Institution has been amended to allow official announcements and advertisements to be published on internet news sites through the Press Advertisement Institution. As a result, internet news sites can now receive official announcements and advertisements and may also be subject to sanctions by the Press Advertisement Institution for non-compliance with the relevant regulations, similar to newspapers and magazines.
IV. Criminal Sanctions
With the implementation of the Amendment Law, internet news sites have been brought under the regulations of the Press Law, thereby making them subject to criminal and legal responsibilities. Furthermore, a new offense, "Disseminating Misleading Information to the Public," has been added to the Turkish Penal Code No. 5237.
Under the ambit of this offense, individuals who publicly disseminate false information about the country's internal and external security, public order, and general health with the sole aim of inducing anxiety, fear, or panic among the public, in a manner that is conducive to disturbing public peace, may face imprisonment ranging from one to three years.
Moreover, in cases where the perpetrator conceals their real identity or commits the crime as part of an organization's activities, this is considered an aggravating factor, and the penalty may be increased by half.
However, the offense of "Disseminating Misleading Information to the Public" has been criticized for the lack of a definitive criterion to determine whether the information disseminated would indeed cause anxiety, fear, or panic.
Additionally, the changes made mandate that criminal cases for daily periodicals and internet news sites should be opened within four months, while for other printed works, the timeframe is six months.
V. Social Network Providers
The Law No. 5651 also outlines the obligations of social network providers. In this regard, if a social network provider from abroad has daily access from Turkey exceeding one million and is a natural person, they must be a resident and a citizen of Turkey.
Furthermore, if daily access from Turkey exceeds ten million, the foreign social network provider must appoint a representative, who is a real or legal person, and will be fully responsible for technical, administrative, legal, and financial matters without prejudice to the provider's responsibilities. Companies within this category must also establish a branch in Turkey as a mandatory requirement.
It should also be noted that the latest amendment requires social network providers to include information on title tags, algorithms for featured or reduced content, advertising policies, and transparency policies in their reports submitted to the Information Technologies Authority.