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Turkey: Blocking of Twitter condemned widely

Many Twitter users, which played a role in recent protests, have found ways to evade the ban.

Press freedom organisations have condemned Turkey’s blocking of Twitter, which began at around midnight Thursay 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 International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists have condemned the Turkish government's decision to block access to the Twitter social media site.

"We strongly condemn this disgraceful move by the Turkish government which clearly undermines freedom of expression and the right to access information of Turkish citizens," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "The government's censorship has taken an anti-democratic turn which brings the country into the same league as the most oppressive regimes in the world. We call on the Turkish government to lift the closure order with immediate effect."

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, Thursday 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 February 3, a magistrates court in the northern city of Samsun on March 4, an Istanbul magistrates court on March 18 and the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB) on March 20.

The imminent blocking of Twitter was announced by Prime Minister Erdogan at an election rally in the northwestern city of Bursa Thursday. “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 criticised 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.

Date posted: March 21, 2014 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 14