Turkey urged to lift Twitter ban after court ruling

by Reuters
Thursday, 3 April 2014 07:33 GMT

(Adds detail from U.S. State Department)

ISTANBUL, April 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department called on Ankara to quickly lift a ban on Twitter after Turkey's top court ruled blocking access to the social-media website violated freedom of expression and individual rights.

Turkey's Official Gazette on Thursday published the Constitutional Court's ruling from Wednesday, further piling pressure on the telecoms authorities to lift the ban.

The Telecommunications Presidency (TIB) blocked access to Twitter on March 21 after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said he would "root out" the network following a series of anonymously posted audio tapes purporting to expose corruption in his inner circle days ahead of nationwide elections.

"We think it (the ban) needs to end, and if there has been a court decision, we think it needs to be implemented quickly, as quickly as possible," Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the U.S. State Department, said, according to an official transcript of a press briefing on Wednesday.

"Obviously we don't think YouTube should be banned either."

Google's video-sharing website YouTube is also offline in Turkey, the TIB having blocked it one week after blocking Twitter. Legal challenges against the YouTube ban are pending.

Now that the ruling on Twitter has been issued by the official state publication, the TIB is expected to consider the court's call to lift the ban, which caused public uproar and global condemnation, led by the United States.


"We welcome this Constitutional Court ruling and hope to have Twitter access restored in Turkey soon," the San Francisco-based company said in a tweet.

President Abdullah Gul, who has opposed the bans, was quoted as saying both should now end.

"The bans on Twitter and YouTube now need to be lifted. I've expressed this to the minister and to the authorities," he said, according to Radikal newspaper on Thursday.

Erdogan's critics saw the ban as the latest in a series of authoritarian measures to crush a corruption scandal that had grown into one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule.

Tech-savvy Turks quickly found workarounds, with Internet analysts reporting a surge in tweets since the ban was imposed, but the issue has become a tug-of-war between Erdogan's administration and the San Francisco-based microblogging site, which has also challenged the move.

Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party emerged far ahead of rival parties in municipal elections on Sunday that had become a referendum on his rule. (Writing by Daren Butler and Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Ralph Boulton)

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