Freedom of Expression Under Attack
First, as search and rescue efforts continue on the third day of the earthquake and many people call for help via Twitter messages from under the rubble, the Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) has narrowed the bandwidth of TikTok and Twitter. This measure, which could not be understood on which legal regulation it was based on, was lifted due to the harsh public reaction. Officials announced that constructive talks were held with Twitter management.
Secondly, those who shared about the earthquake on social media began to be detained from the first days. In this context, academic and journalist Özgün Emre Koç was taken into custody on 8 February and released after one night, after his statements about the late participation of soldiers in search and rescue efforts. In the following period, many scientists, journalists, and ordinary citizens were detained after their earthquake posts were reflected in the media.
Thirdly, it was decided to block access/remove content about many internet domain names and URLs, especially Ekşi Sözlük. It was stated that access to the Ekşi Sözlük was blocked by the BTK at the request of the Presidency in accordance with Article 8/A of Law No. 5651. While this decision was approved by the Ankara 4th Criminal Court of Peace, the concrete content that caused the platform to be blocked from the access was not disclosed. Again, upon the request of the General Directorate of Security, more than 300 URL addresses, as well as the website of Avesta Kitap, which publishes books in Kurdish, and the website of Rudaw TV, were blocked. It was reported that the access bans on Avesta and Rudaw were lifted upon later objections.
Fourth, many opposition television channels were given screen blackouts and fines by RTÜK due to earthquake broadcasts. It was stated that while Halk TV and Tele 1 television channels were fined 5% and suspended programs 5 times, Fox TV was fined 3% each for its Orta Sayfa program and Halk TV for its Halk Meydanı program. Reasons behind these penalties were given as that some of the broadcasts incited the people to hatred and enmity, were against the indivisible integrity of the country, or prevented the public from forming an impartial opinion.
Fifth, some football matches were offered to be played without spectators due to slogans calling for the government to resign on the grounds that the government failed to respond to the earthquake. Many politicians, especially MHP leader Bahçeli, announced that they resigned from their club membership after the spectators of Fenerbahçe and then Beşiktaş chanted slogans demanding the resignation of the government. On the other hand, it was stated that Fenerbahçe guest team spectators will not be allowed in the Kayserispor-Fenerbahçe match to be played on Saturday, March 4, in accordance with the Kayseri Provincial Security Decision. In addition, it was learned that some people who chanted the slogan "the government should resign" were banned from watching the matches because they made "chants containing threats and insults" in accordance with Article 14 of Law No. 6222.
Finally, decisions regarding the confiscation of some books were published. In this context, it was first announced that a "dirty publication" decision was made about the book "Gender of Cherry", which has been on sale in Turkey since the 1990s. Secondly, it was announced that the book titled 'Living Qur'an: Turkish Meal-Tesfir', written by the theologian writer İhsan Eliaçık, was confiscated, upon the request of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, on the grounds that 'it contains objectionable elements in terms of the basic characteristics of the Religion of Islam'.
Freedom of expression, which is an indispensable element of democracy, requires the free expression of all kinds of ideas and the public authorities’ tolerance against heavy criticism. Practices aimed at silencing the simplest criticisms are against basic constitutional principles and values such as human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
Information Technologies and Communications Authority
Özgün Emre Koç
Ankara 4th Criminal Court of Peace
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The Freedom Observer #4
Newsletter & Author
The Freedom Observer
We monitor the ongoings of Turkiye in the fields of the rule of law, economics, civil society, and politics.