Turkey's proposed disinformation bill threatens free speech and could further damage journalism ahead of next year's elections, the Venice Commission said, urging the Turkish parliament to reject it.
The Venice Commission said the imprisonment and other consequences of the bill would be disproportionate to its aims and could lead to arbitrary restrictions on freedom of speech.
President Tayyip Erdoğan's government says the law would be aimed at combating misinformation in the press and social media. His ruling Justice and Development Party and allies have a majority in parliament and are expected to pass it as early as this week.
Critics, including opposition parties and the media, are primarily concerned about the article, which states that those who spread false information about Turkey's security in order to create fear and disrupt public order will face prison sentences of one to three years.
The commission is particularly concerned about the potential consequences of such a provision, namely the deterrent effect and increased self-censorship, not least in view of the upcoming elections in June 2023, the statement said.
It is noted that the bill constitutes an interference with freedom of expression protected by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The Venice Commission stated that there are alternative non-criminal ways to counter false information and misinformation in a democratic society.
Parliament intends to resume debate on the bill Tuesday after it passed the first 15 articles last week.
Turkey is facing suspension from Council of Europe membership because of an ECHR ruling that it ignored an earlier decision in 2019 calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala from prison.