Last December, I wrote on the case of Fusun Erdogan, who was sentences to life imprisonment plus 300 years without the possibility of parole. Erdogan was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization in a trial criticized by Reporters without Borders and other journalist organizations. As the president of the European Federation of Journalists stated when the verdict was announced, “this is completely absurd. The verdict is a disgrace to the Turkish judicial system and an expression of the absolute power of the government.”
Coming in the context of repeated efforts by the Turkish government to block social media outlets, the next hearing of the Izmir “Twitter Trial” is receiving international attention. The case involves 29 men and women on trial Twitter messages they sent during the Gezi Protests last June.
The case of Ethem Sarısülük, killed by a policeman’s bullet during the Gezi protests, has been one of on-going concern for Amnesty International. Yesterday, the trial had its fourth, inconclusive hearing and Amnesty was there to follow the case. Continue reading
Using hashtags like
#TekrarHoşgeldinTwitter (welcome back Twitter), the news that the Turkish government had finally lifted the ban on twitter came across my desktop this afternoon.
I don’t think I was the only one who sighed in relief. Though the government response was slow, coming some twenty-four hours after the Turkish Supreme Court had issued its decision, this was an important victory for freedom of expression and the rule of law in Turkey.
Still, as one colleague noted, it took not one, but two court orders to finally end the ban. When a lower court ruled against the ban, the government chose to drag its feet, ensuring that twitter was not freely accessible during the important municipal elections this past Sunday (though many tech-savvy Turks were able to work around the ban).
Moreover, as Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey notes, the government’s attack on twitter is part of a larger effort to control social media. Continue reading
A few days ago it was twitter. Today Turkey has blocked Youtube. As Amnesty’s researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner, says, “The Turkish government appears to be itching for pretexts to close down websites because of their capacity to mobilize dissenting opinion and broadcast embarrassing material.”
Amnesty International has called on the total ban to be lifted, noting
Even if the Turkish authorities have legitimate concerns about some of the content that might appear, it is completely disproportionate to enforce a blanket YouTube ban in the entire country. Access to YouTube must be restored immediately and the authorities must stop blocking sites that expose abuses and provide a platform for dissenting views.
Amnesty International issued a press statement today condemning the Turkish government’s ban on twitter:
The Turkish government attacked social media companies and users, with the Prime Minister referring to Twitter as “a scourge”. The attacks formed part of a broader policy to silence and smear those speaking out against the government’s crackdown on the protest movement, including doctors, lawyers and journalists.
Amnesty International has also called for a twitter action to protest the ban. Below are some suggested tweets:
.@RT_Erdogan Asıl ‘bela’ Türkiye’de internet özgürlüğünü engellemektir! Twitter yasağı kalksın! http://bit.ly/1ilGUgu #internetimedokunma
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was as good as his word. According to Reuters, he told a friendly crowd at a rally in Bursa earlier today:
“Twitter, mwitter!,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters at a rally in the northwestern province of Bursa, in a phrase translating roughly as “Twitter, schmitter!”.
“We will wipe out all of these [presumably referring to social media, which he has attacked broadly in the past few weeks],” he said.
“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.”
Not long after midnight, the Turkish government blocked access to twitter for millions of users in Turkey. (Advice on by-passing the ban began to be distributed by angry Turkish internet users minutes later).
Writing from Turkey, Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey described the move as ” a desperate and futile measure, the latest move in the AKP’s clampdown on freedom of expression.”
Indeed, this ban is the latest in a long series of attacks on freedom of expression in Turkey that have only accelerated since the Gezi protests this past June. Now, with local elections only weeks away and a series of leaks aimed at embarrassing the ruling AKP, the Turkish government seems to be searching for any means to control public discourse.
Peaceful protests have been brutally suppressed and critical journalists have been regularly targeted. This latest assault on freedom of expression is simply another salvo in a broad scale attack on the basic right to freedom of expression in Turkey.
St. Lawrence University
Ali Ismail Korkmaz would have been twenty today. Instead, he was brutally beaten to death last June during the Gezi protests. There is substantial evidence of police involvement in his murder and in a police cover up after the fact. Click here for an Amnesty blog on the campaign for justice in his case.
The protests which have shaken Turkey in the aftermath of Berkin Elvan’s death at age fifteen have generated many shocking images. Grainy photographs from protests in Roboski/Qileban, however, struck a particular nerve with me because they highlight the extent to which Berkin’s death is one tragedy in a long series of tragedies, one case of impunity in a country where security forces have no expectation that they will be held to account for their abuses.