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RIGHTS > EU and US condemn ‘cowardly and pointless’ Twitter ban

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Turkey's combative prime minister had earlier warned that he would 'eradicate' Twitter, in the wake of damaging allegations of corruption in his inner circle. AFP photo

Turkey's combative prime minister had earlier warned that he would 'eradicate' Twitter, in the wake of damaging allegations of corruption in his inner circle. AFP photo

EU and U.S. officials have been quick to react to the Turkish government’s move to shut down Twitter, despite Erdoğan's earlier statements that he “did not care what the international community would say.”

The EU commissioner for digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, tweeted that the block in Turkey “is groundless, pointless, cowardly.” She added that the "Turkish people and international community will see this as censorship. It is.”

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle also tweeted that the new move created “grave concern.” “Gravely concerned by blocked twitter - being free to communicate and freely choose the means to do it is fundamental EU value,” Füle posted.

The Council of Europe, meanwhile, is examining the legal basis of the ban, according to its spokesperson, Daniel Holtgen. "Twitter BLANKET ban in #Turkey is contrary to ECHR freedom of expression. CoE examining legal basis," Holtger tweeted.

The U.S. State Department also voiced its "increasing concern" regarding freedoms in Turkey.

“We remain very concerned by any suggestion that social media sites could be shut down,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a written statement provided to Turkish journalists. “Democracies are strengthened by the diversity of public voices,” she added.

Erdoğan has 'lost sense of balance'

The head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, urged Erdoğan to "immediately lift the ban." 

"To my followers, especially all in Turkey. I encourage PM Erdoğan to unblock and allow free speech immediately," he tweeted in five languages, including in Turkish.


One of the sharpest criticisms came from the EU socialist group head, Hannes Swoboda, who described the move as a "blatant attack on freedom of speech."

"Turkey, as a country in the process of accession talks to join the European Union, has a duty to respect fundamental human rights. Freedom of speech is a core right of people and Erdoğan's authoritarian oppression of it will not succeed," said Swoboda in a written statement.

"Mr. Erdoğan has lost all sense of direction and balance. Banning a social media network with 10 million users in Turkey is nothing short of a blatant attack on freedom of speech," he added.

Condemnation from Germany, France and UK

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed her discomfort via a statement of her spokesman Steffan Seibert.

"In a free society it is up to citizens to decide how to communicate, not the state," tweeted Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding the popular hashtag related to the ban in Turkey.

The French Foreign Ministry described the decision to shut down Twitter as "shocking" and said the aspiring EU member had to respect freedom of expression and other basic rights.

"This shocking decision of the Turkish government runs contrary to the freedom of expression and communication which are fundamental principles," said French Foreign Ministry Spokesman Romain Nadal.

"Turkey has to respect its commitments as a candidate [for EU membership], especially in the field of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression," Nadal added.

Britain's Foreign Office also joined its European partners voicing major concern at the development. "We have long supported Turkey’s accession to the EU. As a candidate country, it is important for Turkey to promote the EU’s core values of freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law," a U.K. Foreign Office statement said.

Meanwhile, Twitter Inc. said it was investigating the situation, and was meanwhile advising customers in Turkey to bypass the new restrictions by typing in text on their mobile phones ahead of messages.

The website for Turkey's telecommunications authority (TİB) turned up four separate court rulings referencing "twitter.com."

One of them said: "The protection measure has been taken for this website (twitter.com) according to the decision ... of the Istanbul chief public prosecutor's office and has been implemented by the TİB."

State-run Anadolu Agency released a report explaining to the public that a Twitter block was the only solution to "address the unjust treatment of our citizens.”

Meanwhile, a Turkish official told Reuters that Ankara had no current plans to block access to other social media platforms such as Facebook.

“The path was taken to block access within the framework of a court decision because of the failure to overcome the problem with the management of Twitter,” the official said.

March/21/2014

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