Tag Archive | "government"

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Critical Analysis: Turmoil in Turkish Politics Could Tip Syrian War

The Turkish government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in its worst political crisis since coming to power in 2003. On April 3, access to Twitter in the country was restored after the Constitutional Court ruled that a ban imposed by Erdogan on March 21 was illegal. The prime minister had announced he would “wipe out Twitter” after reports of corruption in the government were widely spread on the network. YouTube was also blocked after a recording was posted purportedly of top government officials discussing military intervention in Syria.

With recent reports of corruption and authoritarian tactics Turkish democracy may be eroding. Image Source: WorldPolicy.org

With recent reports of corruption and authoritarian tactics Turkish democracy may be eroding. Image Source: WorldPolicy.org

The bans follow a pattern of what critics consider increasing authoritarian tendencies displayed by Erdogan. In June 2013, police forcefully broke up protests in Istanbul after resistance to a park redevelopment escalated into a larger movement against Erdogan. Later in the year, the government removed police and prosecutors from their posts after more than 50 Erdogan allies were charged with corruption. Erdogan has portrayed the allegations as a conspiracy led by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former supporter of the prime minister’s Justice and Development Party (“AK”). Gulen, who lives in the United States, leads the Hizmet movement, which fell out with the government after moves to shut down its network of private schools. Erdogan’s bombastic comments about foreign conspiracies are seen by critics as an indication that he will use further authoritarian tactics to suppress opposition.

So far, opposition parties in Turkey have not been able to capitalize on the government’s turmoil. Local elections on March 30 were handily won by the AK party. If Erdogan’s troubles and popular resistance to him increase, however, his days in power could be numbered. His own party’s rules currently prohibit him from running for a fourth term as prime minister in 2015, and his efforts to adopt a new constitution creating a more powerful presidency (which he would likely seek) have so far been unsuccessful. But if Erdogan’s departure would be a benefit to democracy in Turkey, it could have dangerous consequences across the border in Syria. Erdogan’s government has strongly supported the Syrian opposition throughout the war, though it has stopped short of direct intervention. Turkey’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (“CHP”), meanwhile, has openly sided with the Assad regime. CHP members of parliament have visited Syria to meet with Assad, while dismissing the regime’s crimes as “a lie just like…weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” They have endorsed Assad’s war as “resistance…against imperialism.” Even Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, an AK member, has made an ambiguous call for “re-calibrating” Turkey’s Syria policy

If the CHP were able to defeat the AK party in the next election, or Erdogan were forced out by his own party in favor of someone more inclined toward Gul’s view, it could have a decisive impact on the Syrian conflict, in favor of Assad. Ridding Turkey of a leader with an ego run amok might be positive, but would it be worth the cost of delivering victory to a regime involved in an internal conflict which has caused 150,000 deaths and refugees numbering in the millions?

Scott Petiya is a 3LE law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a staff editor for the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The Internet: The Land of the Free?

“The Great Firewall of China” is well-recognized around the world as referring to China’s closed-internet policy.  Edward Snowden’s leaks advertised to the world that privacy online in America is more of a myth than an actuality.  But perhaps all of this is just leading to the next stage of internet freedom – not actual freedom, but more transparency in how the internet is being monitored.

A woman sits in a cybercafé in Beijing. Photo: Dan Chung/The Guardian

A woman sits in a cybercafé in Beijing. Photo: Dan Chung/The Guardian

Beijing News recently released a report that more than two million Chinese people are employed by the government and private companies to monitor web activity.  These “internet opinion analysts” are hired to search through opinions related to particular key words, gather the opinions, and then compile reports on these opinions.  However, a previous study indicates that these internet opinion analysts do more than just report on opinions.  This study of one specific site, Sina Weibo, discovered that these monitors will also delete posts that include particular keywords or that are posted by frequently-censored users.  Some of the most commonly censored topic during this thirty day study included “support Syrian rebels,” “judicial independence,” “one-child policy abuse,” and “human rights.”

Censorship in China is based mainly on government laws. The Sina Weibo study, for example, understood that “[i]f Sina Weibo had insufficient controls, the government may take action against the company.  If their controls were too rigid, users might abandon them for one of their competitors.” China is not the only state that uses laws, regulation, and general technology to regulate and monitor internet-use by its citizens.  Iran uses filtering and slow connections to attempt to censor internet use.  India actually has laws against monitoring, but apparently the government has violated its own rule by monitoring the activities of almost 160 million Indian internet users.  And of course, the United States’ NSA monitors the internet activity of millions of Americans.

Perhaps instead of using national laws to inhibit freedom on the internet through censoring or monitoring, as has apparently become the trend over the last three years, it is time to promote privacy instead.  While the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently attempted to negotiate a new treaty for states to sign, the treaty focused more on the rights of governments in telecommunications than individual privacy rights.  If the UN is not helping to promote an international standard, it may be best for a state or group of states to design a Model Law for states to adopt to promote internet privacy.  If a Model Law existed and was shown to be effective for some states, other states, that hold onto monitoring and censoring as necessary for security, would see a viable – and more politically palatable alternative.

Until then, China might at least be making strides in being more frank about how it is monitoring its citizens.  Although a long way from a lack of censorship, this could be a very important step towards more internet privacy – hopefully one that other states will be willing to adopt.

Samantha Peaslee is a 2L at Sturm College of Law and Managing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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