More ways the government in Turkey is limiting free speech

In this Feb. 8, 2014 file photo, people hold a banner that reads 'we resist against bans' as they protest against Internet restrictions in Turkey. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File)

Reporters Without Borders | Committee to Protect Journalists | Medium | Euronews

On Thursday, the prime minister of Turkey announced a block on Twitter. But users found ways around that pretty quickly, Zeynep Tufekci wrote in Medium.

During the day, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had said: “Twitter, shmwitter; We’ll wipe them all off. I don’t care what the international community says.” I had muttered “you might care what what the people in Turkey will think.”

And by court order, Tufekci wrote, Twitter was banned in Turkey.

By the end of it all, most Trending Topics worldwide, and of course in Turkey, were about the blocking of Twitter, and of course, opposing it. Let alone be deterred, the number of Tweets in Turkish and from Turkey were close to record-breaking levels.

People in Turkey had banned the ban.

On Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement about the ban.

"We call on Prime Minister Erdoğan to stop his vitriol against social media in the country and focus on ensuring that all information platforms are free to function freely in advance of local elections," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Turkish authorities must stop viewing the media as the enemy and embrace the role of a free press in a democratic society."

On Friday, Reporters Without Borders called the ban an "extreme and absurd act of censorship."

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.

So the government in Turkey tried to ban Twitter. That's one way it has tried to limit free speech, but not the first.

RWB reported that on Feb. 6, the Turkish parliament passed amendments that would "allow the authorities to block any Internet content that 'violates privacy' or is 'discriminatory or insulting' without having to seek a court order."

On March 7, RWB wrote that Turkey was drifting away from a free press with Erdogan’s announcement that he'd seek to shut down local Facebook and YouTube pages. RWB reported that Erdogan talked about the shutdowns in an interview on March 6.

“We will not sacrifice our people to Facebook or Youtube,” he insisted, as he accused “people or institutions that encourage spying and immorality.” “This conception of freedom cannot exist (…) We are determnined to take the necessary steps.”

On Feb. 16, Euronews reported that 200 local journalists protested media censorship by the government.

Last week, recordings were leaked on the Internet purportedly of Turkish TV executives manipulating an opinion poll and sacking reporters under government pressure.

Journalist Hilmi Hacaloğlu explained: “The government is trying to control the media by using the bosses or the journalists close to them. Journalists are saying they’ve had enough and we gathered here in the traditional press district.

In December of last year, CPJ reported that Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country that year. They retained that ranking from the year before.

The number of journalists behind bars is 40; down from the 61 reporters in October 2012, and less than the 49 we recorded on December 1, 2012. Still, Turkey holds more journalists in custody than Iran, China, or Eritrea.


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