Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.
An Ankara criminal court gave Turkish Journalist Önder Aytaç, a well-known writer and columnist for the opposition newspaper Taraf, a ten month prison sentence on Monday April 28th for “insulting public officials” over Twitter. In September 2012, Aytaç, who is a member of Gülen movement which now opposes President Erdoğan, tweeted an article about Erdoğan’s announcement to shut down private schools operated by the Gülen movement. The tweet included the text: “KAPAT BE USTAAAAAAMMMMMMK :)” which roughly translates to “Close them down my chief eff off :- ).” This is the latest in Turkey’s crackdown on internet freedom following last month’s Twitter and YouTube blocks. While the Twitter ban was lifted in early April, YouTube remains blocked.
On April 24at the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, Vinay Kwatra, the Indian joint secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA,) called for cyber jurisprudence to ensure cyberspace security. Kwatra advocated for the internet governance ecosystem to be sensitive to the cultures and national interests of all nations, not just select stakeholders. The joint secretary also asserted the need for cyberspace security, institutionalized safeguards to protect internet users, and the free flow of and access to information. Prior to NETmundial, the MEA stated that, “The internet must be owned by the global community for mutual benefit and be rendered impervious to possible manipulation or misuse by any particular stakeholder.” India was among the few governments that did not sign the NETmundial outcome statement as its section on governance structure diverges from the official Indian position.
Russia’s parliament approved a package of sweeping new restrictions on internet and blogging, drawing wide criticism from local technology companies and pro-democracy activists. A spokesman for Yandex, Russia’s biggest search engine, stated that adopting the set of laws, “…will become yet another step in increasing government control over the internet in Russia, which will negatively impact the development of the industry.” The bills impose strict control over disseminating information and the internet and online, payments, toughen punishment for terrorism and extremism, and subject popular bloggers to greater regulation and legal liability. The draft laws, which are expected to be signed soon by President Vladimir Putin, would take effect in August.
While Arabic YouTube shows produced in Saudi Arabia by online content creators have been given considerable freedom, Saudi Arabia is now intending to tighten its regulation of locally produced YouTube content. According to Google, Saudi Arabian viewers watch three times as much YouTube as their US counterparts, primarily because traditional government-backed mass media has not produced enough content geared towards young people. The General Commission for Audiovisual Media will use a code that includes guidelines on alcohol, tobacco, nudity, and sexual acts to monitor the quality and quantity of Saudi Arabian videos on platforms such as YouTube. The commission will also promote private-sector-led investment in the media industry.
On Monday April 28, the People’s Daily, China’s top Communist Party newspaper, stated that there can be no internet freedom without order. The People’s Daily article stated that while people have experienced conveniences brought about by the internet, they have also experienced the web’s “negative effects and hidden security dangers,” thus necessitating the need for law and order to achieve internet freedom. This came after several US television shoes, including “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Practice,” “The Good Wife,” and “NCIS,” were removed from video websites by the government. The removal follows a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) from last month that tightened the process for broadcasting television programs and short films online. Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China has seen an intensification in its crackdown on online freedom of expression.
On Tuesday April 29, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler defended his proposed internet roadmap, the Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which is currently before the Commission. In a blog post, Wheeler stated that “the internet will remain like it is today, an open pathway,” however these comments come after consumer organizations, public internet groups, and some lawmakers have criticized Wheeler’s proposal as a “watered down version of net neutrality.” While NPMR allows for special delivery deals between internet providers and content companies if they are “commercially reasonable,” Wheeler emphasized that he would set a “high bar” for what “commercially reasonable” actual is. In his post he wrote that, “Providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable,” stating that any activity that harms consumers would be shut down under new rules. The FCC will vote on May 15 whether to post the proposed rules for formal public comment.