Last Thursday, Turkish government has placed a ban on Twitte, and shortly after, on YouTube. This action has provoked widespread fury in Turkey, and condemnation around the world. All these thanks to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who blames social media for “fueling anti-government rhetoric”, threatened to “wipe out” Twitter at a campaign rally on Thursday. “Erdogan and his government have targeted social media with accusations that they are interfering with investigations into corruption at the highest levels in Turkey.”
The main cause of this incident was that Twitter users had posted links to audio and video recordings of incriminating statements by top Turkish government officials and Erdogan associates, including his son, Bilal.
“The leaked recording purports to show a conversation where Turkey’s foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss scenarios which could lead to a Turkish attack against Jihadist militants in Syria. The two-part video had been watched more than 170,000 times on YouTube world-wide as of early evening in Istanbul. The two videos were the most-shared videos on Turkey’s YouTube on Thursday, according to the video site’s own trends monitor.”
The Turkish government’s ban on access to the Twitter social media site violates citizens’ right to free expression and access should be immediately restored, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday. “Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively,” the high court said in citing Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution.
How this is hurting Turkish government? In a few ways that Erdogan may not have foreseen. Not only did it enrage the citizens and drew much criticism worldwide that could cost his upcoming election, A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office suggested this incident may harm Turkey’s long-held hope of becoming a member of the EU. “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.”
In addition, this may cost some confidence in Turkish economy. The economy is what underpins Erdogan’s popularity, and the Twitter ban could come back to bite him if his capricious misuse of this law scares off foreign investors and undermines confidence in the Turkish economy.
I would say this was not Erdogan’s best decision. Not many country can control freedom of speech the way China and North Korea can. But one needs to admit, it’s been pretty effective in retaining governmental control.