The bill was passed last year but vetoed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in June 2001. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's government recently resubmitted the bill to Parliament.
Under the new law, Turkish broadcasters would face exorbitant fines if found to violate a wide range of Turkish laws that have historically been used to punish journalists for expressing their opinions. The fines range from 5 billion lira (about US$4,000) to 250 billion lira (about US$190,000), with a 50 percent increase for repeat offenders. Broadcasters convicted three times within a single year could have their licenses revoked.
Local journalists fear that the bill would spell financial disaster for smaller, local stations unable to cope with the prospect of debilitating fines.
In addition to these harsh penalties, the draft bill also imposes tight legal restrictions on Internet content.
"Rather than imposing new restrictions on the media and on public discourse, we had hoped that the Turkish government would redouble its efforts to eliminate existing laws that hinder freedom of expression," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "The draft broadcasting bill is a clear step backwards."