Turkey warns Twitter, Facebook of fresh ban
Hacer Boyacıoğlu - ANKARA
Turkish authorities have warned that all websites publishing alleged records related to Syrian-bound trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency that were stopped by a prosecutor last year will be blocked, presaging a possible new ban on Twitter and Facebook. The two largest social media networks, however, quickly complied and removed the content Jan. 14.
On Jan. 2, 2014, two Syria-bound trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) were stopped by a prosecutor who sought to have the gendarmerie search the vehicles. The following month, a Turkish court issued a ban on the publication of news related to the incident.
A number of documents on the search were leaked online yesterday. The signed proceedings related to the search initially leaked through Twitter, allegedly show that arms belonging to MİT were found in the trucks. Speculation has been rife that the arms were destined for jihadists in Syria.
On Jan. 14, Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) recalled a March 2014 government decree that banned the coverage of the issue, referring to Law No. 6112.
According to an article in the law, Turkey's prime minister or a cabinet minister has the authority to impose a gag order on the media "in cases obviously required by national security or when public order is very likely to be broken."
Turkish officials, now equipped with the authority to block websites even without a court ruling, warned Jan. 14 that the gag order would be strictly imposed on the Internet. Several websites, including Facebook and Twitter, quickly withheld the sanctioned content on Jan. 14, dodging the possible Turkish ban.
“There are several court decisions against the websites that published the signed proceedings,” a Turkish official told daily Hürriyet, stressing that the “procedure is ongoing.”
Turkey blocked access to Twitter, hours after then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to close down the social media platform on March 20, 2014.
YouTube was banned in Turkey on March 27, hours after a top-secret government meeting on Syria was leaked allegedly depicting government officials discussing a possible false-flag operation on Turkey in an effort to drag Turkey into Syria’s war.
The Constitutional Court unblocked Twitter on April 2, 2014, and YouTube on May 29, 2014, citing freedom of expression, but the rulings drew the ire of the government.