“Internet will not be solely based on profit-making”

Questions to Gürkan Özturan, the Spokesperson International Communications, Pirate Party Movement Turkey, at the Internet Governance Forum in Istambul. Interview:

Netopia: How do you find the Internet Governance Forum?

Gürkan Özturan: It is a wonderful opportunity to get to meet other people who want to contribute to internet, except not all of them care about internet freedoms. But it’s good to be able to talk about possible basic (and minimum) regulation of the internet. Wonderful opportunity to be part of it, but of course as the Pirates we have our concerns such as censorship and surveillance lobby and their control intentions in disguise of security, and we also have worries about the organisation. It is important for Turkish activists to have an international audience to be able to meet like-minded people and know the global debate here. Living in a country where such state-spying in disguise of security unravels itself and falls down on citizens’ liberties like a dark cloud, I believe we have much to say about the problems with limiting the free internet. There is an ironic situation though, regarding censorship. Actually, the building we’re in right now is free from censorship, what we get here is not the standard Turkish access, but unfiltered. (Editor’s note: This was part of the arrangement with the United Nations when Turkey agreed to organise the IGF.) All kinds of communication is being intercepted in Turkey, like cell phone calls.

N: What are your concerns with the IGF?

GO: One of them is regarding the famous wording of the event: “multi-stakeholder”. Simply multiplication of the stakeholders with a similar point of view does not help bringing us any closer to a free and at the same time secure internet. Many stakeholders would be better. It’s a play on words perhaps, but wording is important. (Laughs). Unfortunately we have seen many people with decision-making power, focusing on the profit side of internet, we have heard many governmental representatives speaking of internet as a sector. Even if we were to perceive internet as a sector, more state interference is not the answer to the well-being of that sector, let alone for the rights and liberties! It would have been better to see more NGO, civil society and activist network representatives and digital rights activists. Currently there is too much of government, ministers, bureaucrats in comparison. I would have liked to see more civil society engagement and contribution to the decision-making processes. I like what Jan Kleijssen from the Council of Europe said: “It’s not the internet that has to be regulated, it’s the behaviour of the governments concerning freedoms and liberties”. I see it as less government, more liberty.

N: Turkey has received international criticism for its lack of human rights protection: how does that relate to hosting the Internet Governance Forum?

GO: It’s ironic that this conference is being held in Turkey, but the history of IGF in places like Bali and Baku, and next year’s venue being Brazil perhaps gives an idea regarding the selection. Perhaps the intention is to find countries that do not really want to allow liberties prevail in their societies. Or in a more optimistic approach, perhaps we can cease this as an opening window. This gives the local digital rights defenders and liberals to interact with international audience and make us get heard. Even if this opportunity might not present itself in the IGF venue, then there emerges Ungovernance Forums. We can see this as an opportunity for the more positive aspect that government can start improving on its approach to human rights and freedoms. It gives me hope about some positive outcomes. However at this IGF there is a lack of panels on censorship and surveillance in Turkey, but government officials repeatedly number-bombarding and stressing that they did not interfere with decision-making on topics in any way is not very convincing. If every single violation of human rights and liberties were to be defended with reference to irrelevant numbers, we would have to re-invent both mathematics and human reasoning.

N: What is the Ungovernance Forum?

GO: It’s a separate event, based on digital rights and liberties, discussions on surveillance, spreading of information and knowledge. It will not be solely based on profit-making and turning the internet into an economic sector. And I believe it is important to have this forum simultaneously with IGF. Moreover, it is impressive to see the support for ungovernance forum. However, the people who really should hear the panels there are absent. But on the other hand, the same people are absent from the IGF panels on youth participation and the future of internet. It is only when they can suggest restrictive, illiberal measures that earns some people a lot of money, they are present at the forefronts. I also would like to mention my favourite quote here from Ben Franklin “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”


The interview of Gürkan Özturan is part of the series Voices from Istanbul published on Netopia Website. Read as well the interviews of Dr. Robert Pepper, Vice President Global Technology Policy, Cisco, speaking on behalf of ICC BASIS, and Sally Shipman Wentworth, Vice President Global Policy Development, Internet Society.