Only days after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called social media “the worst menace to society”, the country arrested 25 social media users in Izmir for allegedly “spreading untrue information” on Twitter. Sara Yasin gives a rundown on Turkey’s Twitter phobia
While most of the Twitter users have now been released, one user is still being held by police. The nature of the offending messages remains unclear, but a number of the videos capturing police brutality have been filmed in the coastal city.
Turkey’s main media outlets deliberately chose not to cover the protests initially, driving Turks to social media in search of information. Ece Temelkuran wrote for Index that Twitter users became virtual organizers of aid and support. Turkey’s major news outlets have been heavily criticised for opting to cover programmes about cooking, schizophrenia, and in the case of CNN Turk — penguins, instead of the protests. This reticence has exposed the extent of censorship and self-censorship in the Turkish media.
As of Thursday, there have been three deaths and an estimated 4,000 injuries since the start of protests.
The integrity of Turkey’s media coverage is not a new problem: as Yavuz Baydar wrote in Al Monitor this week, “for a long time now, the news coverage of the Turkish media has been shaped by the personal interests of ambitious, powerful, money-making bosses with the government.” In other words: staying in business has meant toeing the government line.
Index CEO Kirsty Hughes criticised the Turkish government’s growing authoritarian tendencies and condemned the “deliberate creation of media censorship, and the brutality of police in the face of mass protests.”