The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), today expressed deep disappointment at efforts by Turkey to shut down access to Twitter ahead of local elections.
Reuters said that Twitter users in Turkey reported widespread outages today, with some browsers displaying a statement by Turkey’s telecommunications provider citing four court orders blocking the website.
Local elections are scheduled for March 30 amid an ongoing corruption scandal that has gripped the country since December and which allegedly involves high-level members of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent weeks has threatened to shut down social media websites, which have become a primary means for the release of wiretapped conversations that, if authentic, ensnare AKP members even further in the scandal.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said: “Efforts to shut down Twitter in order to control the news are not only ultimately futile – they sadly move Turkey away from the embrace of human rights and the rule of law, and closer to autocracy. It’s been said that censorship is the lobby of dictatorship. What’s the point of democracy if you won’t give voters the possibility of making an informed decision?”
Erdogan said yesterday, before the ban was instituted: “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”
However, media reported that many Turkish Twitter users were able to get around the ban and that #TwitterisblockedinTurkey became one of the top trending hashtags around the world.