100,000 web pages banned in Turkey

100,000 web pages banned in Turkey

A worrying number of websites and pages, including a number of Hürriyet news items, are banned by the authorities in Turkey. What’s more, most of these bans were applied without proper investigations being conducted and without any testimonies being taken. 

With the blocking orders, stories are lost and freedom of the press and expression is undermined. Unfortunately, this situation is being silently absorbed by media outlets and the ever rising number of bans is gradually being normalized.

The reason why I write about these bans each week is to say “no” to the normalization of this situation.

A recent report prepared by the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) information and communications department, titled “Turkey’s Internet Access Problem,” took a deep look into bans on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Wikipedia and various other sites. The report also considered “indirect bans” as well as “violations of the right to access the Internet.”

The CHP was unable to get a response to its questions on access bans from the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), the authority in Turkey that can remove and ban most links. The BTK is also the entity that installs rulings given by prosecutors and courts on “suspicious publications,” while the head of the BTK has the authority to ban websites that include content involving child abuse, obscenity or prostitution, as well as removing content based on “national security, protection of the public order, prevention of criminal activity, and protection of general health.”

When the BTK remains silent to the questions posed in the CHP’s report, a big part of the puzzle remains unsolved. But the numbers provided by the Association of Access Providers (ESB), the entity that installs banning orders given by the Penal Courts of Peace and public offices, show the severity of the situation.

- Some 1,559 items of content were removed up to Dec. 1, 2015. Some 18,688 web links were removed up to Dec. 31, 2016. More than 50,000 addresses were removed before December 2017.

- Procedures were conducted on 158,683 links up to 2017. More than 36,000 addresses had been banned as of Dec. 31, 2015 and over 86,000 addresses had been banned as of December 2016. Since December 2017, nearly 100,000 addresses were made unreachable. In 2017 ministries as well as other government departments issued orders to ban a total of 382 items of contents.

Considering that 2018 is not even included in these numbers, the fact that more than 100,000 items of content have been removed from the Internet so far shows us the severity of the situation and the extent of the threat faced by digital journalism in Turkey.

Journalists should not remain silent to these rulings and bans. Instead we should all try to get the word out about them, helping to create awareness.

Freedom to write about bans

Still, there is at least one tiny bit of good news from the Penal Court of Peace: One request to ban an item on the Hürriyet website has been overturned. 

The decision comes in relation to an interview with a certain businessperson published by Hürriyet, after which the subject attempted to remove the interview following my challenging of her words. She applied for four links to be removed and one of the requests was rejected.

Still, the other three were banned.

freedom of expression, opinion,