The government is preparing to submit a draft law to Parliament on Internet media, to give online journalists the same rights their colleagues at conventional outlets enjoy.

“We have been working for a long time on this draft law, which will bring positive developments for the Internet press. The draft will be submitted to Parliament soon,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said late April 16 after a weekly Cabinet meeting.

The draft, drawn up in cooperation with the Internet Media Association, envisages amendments of the Turkish Press Law. Under the bill, Internet journalists would be able to get press cards issued by the Prime Ministry’s Directorate General of Press and Information.

Currently, a journalist who has worked for at least one year at a newspaper or a television station can obtain a “yellow press card” from the directorate. Yellow press cards are crucial for Turkish journalists, because official institutions such as Parliament, the Presidency and the Prime Ministry require them as a pre-condition for accreditation.

Under the new law, journalists who work for Internet news portals would be able to obtain press cards, and their sites would be able to receive official notices. However, a separate regulation by the Press Bulletin Authority (BİK) would be needed for the official notices to go ahead.

Some critics, however, have criticized the draft on the grounds that it contains no clear definition of what an “Internet news portal” is, saying this could create uncertainty about which sites would be considered “news portals.”

The draft bill to include Internet media in the Press Law contains many perplexing articles, said lawyer Gökhan Ahi, an expert on information and technology law. If the draft bill were to go into effect in its current form, complications could arise with respect to the question of exactly which sites constitute news sites, he said, because those who drafted the bill meant well, but have no insight into the nature of the Internet. “To begin with, there is a mistake with regard to the definition of an ‘internet news site.’ Anyone who sets up a news script that goes on sale for 50 Turkish Liras and makes an appropriate declaration to the prosecutor’s office in accordance with the Press Law can take advantage of the rights bestowed upon news sites,” he said.

Hadi Özışık, head of the Internet Media Association, said his organizaiton has been working on to bring this draft to Parliament since 2005. The draft bill was prepared by the association in cooperation with the other non-governmental organizations. “If the bill passes, our content will not be banned anymore, and we will be considered journalists,” Özışık said.

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