Censorship demand on main opposition lawmaker was ‘mistake’

Censorship demand on main opposition lawmaker was ‘mistake’

Censorship demand on main opposition lawmaker was ‘mistake’

Umut Oran suggested that the increasing pressure to limit Internet content was a consequence of recent opinion polls, during a press conference in Istanbul on Feb. 3. DAILY NEWS files photo

Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) has admitted that it made a mistake in demanding that news sites remove content related to a recent corruption probe that has engulfed the government.

“Amid notifications given by the TİB within the framework of Istanbul court decisions, a warning message was also sent by mistake to news websites,” it said in a statement released Feb. 3, adding that an investigation had been launched into the messages.

The head of the TİB had sent Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Umut Oran a warning a day earlier asking the lawmaker to remove a parliamentary question he published on his website. The question related to phone records between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his son Bilal Erdoğan, and a number of ministers and businessmen, and asked whether Erdoğan had instructed then-Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım to tell a group of businessmen to buy daily Sabah and ATV television station.

The TİB sent the same warning to a number of media organs that published the parliamentary question on their website, reports said. 

Oran said the action taken against his personal website was part of “wider pressure” on the opposition, while also revealing that a suitcase containing documents was stolen from his car around 10 days ago. 

“We reported this incident to the police; I didn’t dwell upon it too much. But when you look at the incidents as a whole, [I see] pressure here,” Oran told reporters during a press conference Feb. 3.
He also recalled that a gun assault was recently launched against the municipal building of Istanbul’s Şişli district, whose mayor will run as the CHP’s Istanbul candidate in the March 30 local elections. 

“We are currently facing huge danger. This is not only about imposing a ban on [my] website,” the CHP deputy head said, adding that he “did not recognize the decision.”

Daily Radikal reported Feb. 3 that the warning was not based on a court decision, but on the request of the Istanbul Public Prosecutor Office urging the TİB to “take measures.” The prosecutors referred to a court decision on a “publishing ban” to justify the request, Radikal said. The warning read, “You are committing a crime, remove it,” sources said Feb. 2.

Call from parliamentary speaker 

Oran said both Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Transport and Communications Minister Lütfi Elvan had called him vowing to resolve the situation. He added that Çiçek had told him that the rights of a lawmaker could not be restrained in this way. 

“I responded that I knew my rights, and asked him to take responsibility as the head of the legislative power,” he said.

Oran also said he had expressed his concerns to Elvan vis-à-vis a new law on the Internet, which increases the powers of the TİB to take action against websites. 

The CHP deputy head suggested that the increasing pressure to limit Internet content was a consequence of recent opinion polls, which he claimed showed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) under the 40 percent threshold. 

“There is a huge fragility on issues such as corruption, foreign policy, economy and independence of the judiciary. There is an alarm because of this. So they have started to paralyze and ban everything. I see this situation as a sign of panic,” he said.