Criminalizing social media users

Criminalizing social media users

Mehveş Evin
He was detained at the airport. His home was searched; his private belongings were gone through. Including actor Barış Atay, 14 people were interrogated on grounds that they were Redhack members.

However, the accusations were so funny; the prosecutor had to release all of them. For example, Barış Atay’s “crime” was that his voice resembled a member of Redhack.

At the interrogation, they were asked whether they had posted tweets “provoking people” during the Gezi demonstrations. Whatever that means, a tweet that provokes people? Are they going to bring back 301?

However, none of the investigations and cases opened in connection with the Gezi fit into the “terror crime” suit the state has tailored. Teachers, actors, students, academics, musicians, doctors, lawyers, journalists and even religious functionaries are subject to intimidation, relocation or frightening methods.

Gezi interrogations and court cases are extremely problematic with regard to the law and human rights. Somebody who barely uses the computer is being interrogated for “cybercrime” just because he or she supported the Gezi movement. In the southern city of Mersin, 54 people were taken to court because they played music during a demonstration! Music is considered a way to incite people…

On the other hand, the state is extremely reluctant in looking into the cases of those who were killed, maimed or whose lives were ruined. Those who have caused the death of Mehmet Ayvalıtaş are being tried without being detained. Ali İsmail Kormaz’s case has been moved to Kayseri for “security” reasons.

Well, does the media cover all of these cases as much as they deserve?

When Barış Atay was released, he drew attention to the responsibility of the media in people being made targets and detained without citing any evidence, “These are happening because you have not reported anything on Hopa, Roboski, ODTÜ, Reyhanlı, Armutlu, Gülsuyu, Gazi and Gezi.”

The issue is not limited to not reporting… It is also the journalist’s responsibility, if the story is distorted, if the story is “killed” through little coverage or being reported correctly or partially correct…
No country where freedoms of the press and expression have become chronic issues is able to pass the test for democracy.

Especially when you think of the extremely cowardly and biased reporting from TV channels… When you come to notice the “cleansing” operation in the media after Gezi became especially apparent… If the way to get the fastest and the most correct news is shifting to social media… If people are saying, “I no longer watch television and read the papers”… If they have walked to the entrances of media outlets to protest…

Isn’t it time to stop and think?

Just like how the Feb. 28 media is being dragged through the mud now… Indeed the time will come and the media that did not report on or distorted the environment, which caused 3.6 million people (according to the Security Department’s Gezi analysis, reported by the daily Milliyet) to take to the streets, its reasons and the witch hunt being conducted will also be called to account.

Fortunately, the right of the citizen to information is no longer in the hands of journalists anymore! Thanks to the freedom of the internet and the diversity of social media, there is a brand new world before us.

This is exactly the government’s fear and is why it is trying to criminalize social media users, attempting to categorize them under “cybercrimes” and hire its own cyber teams.

*Mehveş Evin is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on Nov 27. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.