Turkey moves to block YouTube access after ‘audio leak’

27th March 2014 – Turkey has moved to block access to YouTube, a day after a court ordered the suspension of a ban on Twitter, which PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed. The telecoms authority (TIB) said it had taken an “administrative measure” against the site but another report suggests that talks are under way. Some users found access blocked while others could still use the site. Earlier, what appeared to be a leaked audio recording of Turkish officials discussing Syria appeared on YouTube.

It relates to a discussion of possible military operations in Syria, which was apparently attended by Turkey’s intelligence chief, its foreign minister and the deputy head of the armed forces. Reuters news agency, which examined the recording, said it could not verify its authenticity but it was potentially the most damaging purported leak so far as it appeared to have originated from the bugging of a highly confidential and sensitive conversation. Mr Erdogan, who faces important local elections on Sunday, accuses social media of spreading misinformation and suggested earlier that bans could be applied to both YouTube and Facebook. At a rally this week, Mr Erdogan was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying: “I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.” On Wednesday, a court in the capital, Ankara, ordered the TIB to lift its ban on Twitter, but it could be weeks before the order takes effect. Twitter itself has filed a challenge to the access ban. It said it was concerned about a court order to suspend an account which accused a former minister of corruption.

 

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26773702

 

 

Court in Turkey moves to suspend ban on Twitter

26th March 2014 –  A court in Turkey has ordered the suspension of a controversial ban on the social media site Twitter but it could be weeks before it takes effect. Turkish users of Twitter expected to regain access shortly after the ruling but it remained blocked. The country’s telecommunication authority (TIB) has 30 days to decide whether to lift the ban. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “wipe out Twitter” after users spread allegations of corruption. Twitter itself has filed a challenge to the access ban.
It said it had acted on two out of three Turkish legal orders but had concern about the third order as it was a request us to suspend an account accusing a former minister of corruption.
“This order causes us concern,” its general counsel, Vijaya Gadde, said in a statement. “Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption.” At a rally ahead of important local elections on Sunday, Mr Erdogan was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying: “I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”

People have demonstrated against the Twitter ban in the streets

People have demonstrated against the Twitter ban in the streets

A ban was imposed on Friday on the grounds that Twitter had failed to remove the allegations of corruption involving senior officials. A number of complaints were filed to courts, arguing the ban was illegal and unconstitutional. The administrative court in Ankara issued a temporary injunction on Wednesday ordering the TIB to restore access to Twitter until it could deliver its full verdict on the ban. Turkish media reports suggested the ban would be suspended soon afterwards but a source in Mr Erdogan’s office told Reuters news agency the TIB had 30 days to implement or appeal against the court ruling. Thirty days is a standard period in such cases. “The millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that,” Ms Gadde said. “There are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey,” she added.

Users have found many ways of circumventing the prohibition, which has been widely criticised and ridiculed. As of Wednesday afternoon, the top trending term in Turkey was a political slogan attacking Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party. Just behind it was a pro-Erdogan term.

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26749374

Related: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/26/turkish-court-lifts-twitter-ban

‘Minority groups face increasing discrimination in Turkey’

20 March 2014 by MELTEM Naz Kaso, İstanbul (Today’s Zaman)

Despite March 21 being both the UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the start of the Nevruz festival, which marks the first day of spring and has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years, some prominent voices in Turkey have used the occasion to tell Today’s Zaman that discrimination is increasing against those who do not practice Sunni Islam or identify as ethnic Turks.

Aren, a Christian of Armenian heritage in his 30s, says that on one occasion, when he was exercising at the gym, some people opened windows soon after he started running and said that “the room had started to smell like an Armenian.” Another man of Aren’s age referred to a dumbbell as being “as heavy as an unbeliever’s dead body.” He tells Today’s Zaman that this is far from being the most severe incident he has experienced in Turkey in terms of discrimination due to his ethnicity and religion. He could well be right. Other prominent incidents of racial and religious discrimination — such as the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was killed outside his office, and three Christians who were brutally murdered at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya — reveal that intolerance can be deadly.

On paper, Turkey has taken significant steps to fight against discrimination. After the long-running public debates over the implementation of a “democracy package” — an initiative to extend rights to Turkey’s disadvantaged minorities — hate crime entered the Turkish statute books for the first time in December 2013. Hate and prejudice crimes are defined as “crimes committed against someone or some group based on their language, race, nationality, skin color, gender, disability, political views, philosophical beliefs or religion.” Yet, unlike the preferred definition of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it lacks criteria based on ethnicity and sexual orientation. In addition, the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, the Kurds, are not specifically included in the regulation.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a public declaration in January 2014 to draw attention to these gaps in Turkey’s hate crime legislation. So far, no subsequent changes have taken place.

Erdal Doğan, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the Zirve murder case, thinks that the problem of ethnic and racial discrimination is deeply rooted in Turkey and will not be resolved soon. “Since the founding of the Turkish Republic, our country had been built according to the concept of ‘oneness.’ To ‘Turkify’ everyone, governments normalized hate speech and did not recognize ethnic or religious differences,” Doğan tells Today’s Zaman. According to the lawyer, the goal of such policies was to label as an enemy all those who were not Sunni Muslim Turks.

From: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-342607-minority-groups-face-increasing-discrimination-in-turkey.html

Tagged Hrant Dink, Nevrus festival, Zirve murder case, ethnic and racial discrimination

Turkey’s Erdogan again threatens to ban social media

20th March 2014 –  (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday repeated his threat to close down social media platforms including Twitter in Turkey and said he did not care about the potential backlash from the international community.

“We will wipe out all of these,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters at a rally in the northwestern province of Bursa.

“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,” he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/20/us-turkey-erdogan-twitter-idUSBREA2J1L520140320

Turkey threatens to ban social media sites

Turkey’s embattled prime minister has warned that his government could ban social media networks YouTube and Facebook after a raft of online leaks added momentum to a spiralling corruption scandal.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already tightened his government’s grip over the Internet, generating criticism at home and abroad about rights in the EU-hopeful country.

“There are new steps we will take in that sphere after March 30… including a ban (on YouTube, Facebook),” Erdogan told private ATV television in an interview.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has come under mounting pressure since last week, when audio recordings were leaked in which Erdogan and his son allegedly discuss how to hide vast sums of money.

The Turkish premier dismissed them as a “vile” and “immoral” montage by rivals ahead of key local elections on March 30.

07/03/2014, The Telegraph

Also:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/07/turkey-erdogan-facebook-youtube-ban-elections

In the meantime, President Abdullah Gul said facebook and twitter cannot be closed down” – interesting divergence of views there…again…

http://www.zaman.com.tr/politika_cumhurbaskanindan-youtube-ve-facebook-aciklamasi_2203676.html

Turkish PM Erdoğan admits meddling in judiciary, trade deals

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has admitted to interfering in the judicial process and defense tenders, following the revelation of wiretapped conversations released online this week, defending his meddling as “natural.”

“Is there anything more natural than for me to ask my justice minister to follow [an ongoing trial]?” he said March 5 in Ankara, a day after a recording appeared depicting him demanding that a court punish Doğan Holding Honorary Chairman Aydın Doğan while speaking to then-Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin. 

“The information given to me by the Capital Markets Board [SPK] was very dangerous. [It contains] parallel structures and a dirty relationship. So it makes it necessary for me to tell [the justice minister] to closely follow [the case],” Erdoğan said during a meeting with representatives of local media outlets.

Erdoğan’s remarks also came after Doğan Holding issued a statement expressing hope that the alleged conversation was not correct and that the tapes were not real. 

“If correct, such a conversation will further shake the judicial system in Turkey beyond creating a personal grievance,” the statement said. 

Erdoğan also commented about another leaked conversation regarding a project to build a national warship, known as the MİLGEM program, in which he advises a businessman who claimed to have been unable to take part in the bid to take legal action.

“There are many tenders and someone could have been excluded and might have appealed to me. And I’m telling them to open a lawsuit because the state ultimately earns millions of dollars out of it,” Erdoğan said regarding the tape.  

“Here it is, they are characterless to the degree of listening to that conversation,” he added, accusing once again the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen of conducting the wiretappings. 

“You will infiltrate the state, tap people’s phone conversations, then blackmail them. You will extort people. Leave aside Islam, you cannot see such lowness in any religion,” he said.

Erdoğan also reiterated his threat to uncover many truths regarding the Gülen network. “All the dirty relationships and the dirty actions will be revealed one by one, and their perpetrators will face justice,” he said. 

Erdoğan faces one of the biggest crises in the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 11-year rule and has proclaimed that the upcoming local elections on March 30 will be his party’s most important test.

Corruption allegations moved closer to Erdoğan’s family after voice recordings between him and his son were leaked last week onto the Internet. Erdoğan described the recordings, in which he was heard discussing how to hide large sums of money, as a “montage.”

But on March 5, he said he was ready to step down if his ruling party failed to win the most votes in the March 30 elections.

“I am ready to quit politics unless my party emerges as the winner in the elections,” Erdoğan said.

March/05/2014, Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey’s Gul seen approving tighter control of Internet, courts

18th Feb 2014 – (Reuters) – BY NICK TATTERSALL. Turkey’s president has signaled he will approve new laws tightening controls over the courts and the Internet, bolstering embattled Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan but deepening concerns about free speech and the rule of law.

The two bills, passed by parliament this month and awaiting President Abdullah Gul’s approval, are seen by Erdogan’s critics as an authoritarian response to a corruption inquiry shaking his government, a bid to stymie court cases and to stop leaks circulating online. The new law on the judiciary will give the government more influence over the naming of judges and prosecutors, while the Internet bill will enable the authorities to block access to web pages within hours without a prior court order.The moves by Turkey, which has been seeking membership of the European Union for decades, have raised concern in Brussels, which fears it is shifting further away from EU norms, and unnerved investors in a country whose stability over the past decade has been based on Erdogan’s firm rule. The government says the laws will further democracy by taking back control of a judiciary it sees as in hock to a powerful but unaccountable cleric bent on unseating Erdogan, and by protecting individuals’ privacy on the Internet.

Police fired teargas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Internet law in Istanbul this month, and parliamentarians debating the judicial reforms came to blows on Sunday, leaving one with a broken nose. Erdogan’s opponents have called on Gul, who co-founded the ruling AK Party with him in 2001 but is generally seen as a more conciliatory figure than the combative prime minister, to use his powers to veto the bills. Speaking to reporters on a trip to Hungary late on Monday, he gave little sign he would do so. “As the president I cannot put myself in the position of the constitutional court. But in a very general way, I can make my objections concerning the points I see,” he was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet and Haberturk newspapers.

Gul pointed out he had raised concerns about the AK Party’s first draft of the judicial reform bill, which had since been amended, and that the opposition had already indicated it would in any case appeal to the constitutional court.

“That is our tradition. Presidents before me would say ‘the constitutional court decides on the subject of laws in which there are arguments for and against’,” he was quoted as saying.

Gul has also said there are “problems” with some elements of the Internet law, which the country’s communications minister was quoted on Tuesday as saying may still be amended.

POLITICAL AMBITION

Gul has made little secret of his desire to return to mainstream politics and is seen as a future leader of the AKP, an ambition his critics say leaves him too wary of conflict with Erdogan to act as an effective check on his power.

“Gul wants to serve as president for a second term and has the desire to chair the AKP after Erdogan, so even if he does not fully agree, he is approving controversial regulations from the party,” Turkish political analyst Atilla Yesilada said in a report.The battle for control of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which appoints senior members of the judiciary, lies at the heart of a feud between Erdogan and influential U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen, whose followers say they number in the millions, is believed to have built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades and leads a powerful worldwide Islamic movement from a forested compound in the United States. Erdogan blames Gulen, a former ally who helped cement AK Party support over the past decade, for unleashing the graft investigation, which he sees as an attempted “judicial coup” meant to undermine him in the run-up to local and presidential elections this year. The cleric denies any such role. Gul is seen as enjoying more support from Gulen’s network of sympathizers, who view themselves as pro-democratic and reformist, then Erdogan, whose views on issues from abortion to alcohol they see as unnecessary interference in private life.

But Gul has also been critical of the cleric’s influence in state institutions in recent months, appearing to close ranks with Erdogan and echoing the prime minister’s warning that a “state within the state” will not be tolerated. In the eyes of Turkey’s opposition, too weak in parliament to stall AKP bills, that opens the way for Erdogan to impose an increasingly authoritarian rule.

“If the president approves the HSYK law, the judiciary will be bound completely to the government. The separation of powers will be completely shelved,” said Devlet Bahceli, head of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). “I fear that Prime Minister Erdogan will sit at the top of the judiciary as the chief judge.”

(Additional reporting by Asli Kandemir and Daren Butler; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/18/us-turkey-government-idUSBREA1H18Z20140218