Turkey’s late night decision to block Twitter last evening is emblematic of the increasing authoritarian tendencies of the prime minister Recep Erdogan.
Index condemns prime minister Erodgan’s move to block Twitter as censorship of which the worst authoritarian regimes would be proud.
Index CEO Kirsty Hughes said: “The degree of censorship in Turkey has gone from bad to very grave. Index calls on the Turkish government to restore freedom of expression in Turkey and to end its block on Twitter.”
“Index calls on the European Union to demand Turkey stops its attacks on freedom of expression – on social media, the broadcast and print media, and the right of assembly, or to suspend its membership negotiations.”
After weeks of threats against social media, the blocking of Twitter sends a clear sign that Turkey should no longer be accepted as even a talking partner for accession to the EU. Index calls on the EU to suspend all discussions with Turkey until the government takes steps away from censorship of its press and social media outlets.
Couched in terms that throw a thin veneer of legality and protection of public morals, the block against Twitter was either instituted at the behest of citizen complaints or court orders to remove content that were resisted by the social network. The government’s move against Twitter follows the leak of recorded conversations of Erdogan that are embarrassing to his administration ahead of local elections.
Twitter is an increasingly important tool in Turkey where it is used by more than 36 million internet users, of which 31 per cent use Twitter (according to eMarketer). As the election approaches, clearly the Erdogan government is worried about the power of social media to spread news and information it doesn’t want its people to know. It was expected that Twitter would a big part of the upcoming election strategy for all parties.
Don’t miss the spring issue of Index on Censorship magazine. Post Charlie Hebdo our commentators take a global view at how threats are being used to stop writers and artists, with Ariel Dorfman, David Edgar, Father Ted’s Arthur Mathews, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and others. Also, major general Tim Cross and internet guru Martha Lane Fox go head to head on national security versus privacy, and Ismail Einashe on the perils of escaping from Eritrea.