A late night attack on internet freedom

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.”

Recep_Tayyip_ErdoganNot 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.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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