TWITTER BANNED IN TURKEY – A THREAT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

TWITTER BANNED IN TURKEY – A THREAT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION 21 March 2014
Recep Tayyip Erdogan talking to a crowd

Two weeks ago Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that a total ban on all social media sites like Facebook or Twitter was in his thoughts.

IGO strongly condemns Turkey’s move to block Twitter as it undermines the right to freedom of expression, one of the basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Turkey restricted access to Twitter hours after its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened to “root out” the social media network where wiretapped recordings have been leaked, damaging the government’s reputation ahead of local elections.

Some users trying to use Twitter were taken to a statement from Turkey’s telecommunications regulator (TIB).

The statement cited four court orders as the basis for blocking the site, where some users in recent weeks have posted voice recordings and documents purportedly showing evidence of corruption among Erdoğan’s inner circle. It said that action had been taken against Twitter as a “protection measure”.

The Turkish telecoms watchdog BTK had previously asked Twitter to remove some content but Twitter had failed to do so, the BTK said in a statement on its website.

“Because there was no other choice, access to Twitter was blocked in line with court decisions to avoid the possible future victimisation of citizens,” it said.

Erdoğan had made repeated threats to shut down social media sites after audio recordings of his alleged conversations suggesting corruption were leaked.

Two weeks ago he suggested that a total ban on sites like Facebook and YouTube were in his thoughts. The point was dismissed days later by the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, but Erdoğan then repeated his claims. “We will wipe out all of these,” Erdoğan told thousands of supporters at a rally in the north-west province of Bursa.

“The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” he said.

Turkish internet users were quick to come up with their own ways to circumvent the block. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly moved among the top trending globally.

The disruption sparked a virtual uproar with many comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled. There were also calls to take to the street to protest, although some users equally called for calm.

IGO calls on the Turkish authorities to accept open criticism and to immediately remove the ban placed on twitter.