Turkey, and more specifically President Erdogan, has a long-standing feud with social media. From banning access to Twitter and Facebook during the Gezi Park protests in 2013, where 11 people were killed in the four months of the unrest, to continuous protests of the Turkish government against social media companies.
Interestingly, the protests in Gezi started as an environmental protest about the park, and with the help of social media they were transformed into protests about the encroaching of secularism, as president Erdogan had then passed laws to limit alcohol consumption and the public displays of affection. Since then, the government has expanded its meddling in the traditional media to digital platforms, at times going beyond its own borders.
In the latest attempt of putting the muzzle on journalists outside Turkey, the target is a Greek website of military press. E-Amyna (E-Defense in Greek) received a message from Twitter’s legal department citing the decision of a Turkish court asking to intervene in content published by the website’s Twitter account.
The request was submitted by the Turkish General Staff on March 21st, and on the same day the Ankara court published a decision. The reasons cited in the decision are defamation of Turkish military personnel and support for the “secessionist terrorist organization”, which is how the PKK and its offshoots in Syria are called in Turkish legalese, by E-Amyna’s accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
It is worth noting that the Turkish law for crimes perpetrated by posts on the internet is viewed with suspicion in Europe, as the punishments are very harsh and the process is very shady.
The information used by E-Amyna came from open sources that are available to the Turkish public itself, which is something that showcases that the goal of the Turkish state is nothing more than an attempt to stop discomforting news from reaching a wider audience, as E-Amyna tweets in the English language.
This of course is part of the continuous campaign by President Erdogan against social media. Between March and December 2017, out of the 511 requests for accounts and content removal to Twitter, the 466 came from Turkey.
Erdogan’s Turkey targets anyone that paints it in unfavorable colors, as was the case with the German comedian sued for offending Erdogan. But with the recent tensions with Greece, one cannot but wonder if the case with E-Amyna could be something more. Trying to present a popular defence site of a country you have issues with as supporters of terrorism borders with political and military goals.
Whatever the motives in this particular case, however, it is yet another instance of Turkish interventionism spreading beyond its borders. And it makes you wonder, if not even the foreign media and journalists are safe from it, what could be the state of freedom of press in Turkey itself.
Featured Image Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons