Turkey - Blocking of Twitter – "worthy of the most repressive regimes"

by Reporters Without Borders | Reporters Without Borders
Friday, 21 March 2014 12:50 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Read in Turkish / Türkçe

Reporters Without Borders condemns Turkey's blocking of Twitter, which began at around midnight last night, just nine days ahead of regional elections and after several weeks in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's standing has been damaged by the leaking of a series of embarrassing audio recordings online.

The alleged recordings of Erdogan's conversations, many of which have been posted on Twitter, point to involvement in alleged corruption as well as his personal meddling in the editorial policies of leading media such as HaberTürk, Milliyet, NTV and Star.

"This extreme and absurd act of censorship, fraught with consequences for the flow of information and democratic debate, is worthy of the world's most repressive regimes," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

"The damage to freedom of information is out of all proportion to the official aim. This decision unfortunately just illustrates the draconian nature of the legislation adopted a few weeks ago to reinforce online censorship. We urge the government to stop blocking Twitter and to amend its legislation in order to comply with the constitution and Turkey's international undertakings."

The Turkish authorities have blocked Twitter under legislation that was adopted last month in defiance of a national and international outcry.

The Information Technologies and Communications Council (BTK), an offshoot of the transport and communications ministry, yesterday said the "preventive suspension" of access to the entire Twitter platform had been ordered in response to complaints that certain content was "violating privacy" and "attacking persons."

Access to Twitter would be restored as soon as it "withdrew the content that the courts had identified as illegal," the BTK added.

Several court decisions were cited, including decisions issued by an Istanbul criminal court on 3 February, a magistrates court in the northern city of Samsun on 4 March, an Istanbul magistrates court on 18 March and the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB) on 20 March.

The imminent blocking of Twitter was announced by Prime Minister Erdogan at an election rally in the northwestern city of Bursa yesterday. "The courts have just taken a decision," he said. "We are going to eradicate Twitter and its like. Yes, all of them. What will international circles say? That doesn't concern me. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic."

Erdogan criticized those "who do not hesitate to spy on the most senior government officials" and who "now threaten the security of the state."

He added: "This has nothing to do with freedoms. Freedom does mean violating a person's privacy. And sending state secrets to international addresses is not freedom either."

Erdogan’s comments elicited an immediate protest from the Association of Internet Publishers (IYAD), which said: "Claiming the right to close Twitter would confirm [that Turkey is] a dictatorship."

After the blocking of Twitter began, the head of the national bar association, Metin Feyzioglu, announced that he intended file a legal action against those responsible. The United States and European Union have also voiced their concern.

(Photo : AFP Photo / Prime Minister Press Office / Kayhan Ozer)