Courts blocked access to Twitter after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s defiant vow, on the campaign trail on Thursday ahead of March 30 local polls, to “wipe out” the social media service, whatever the international community had to say about it.
Tech-savvy Turks, President Abdullah Gul apparently among them, quickly found ways to circumvent the ban, with the hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey rapidly moving to among the top trending globally.
“One cannot approve of the complete closure of social media platforms,” Gul tweeted, voicing his hope that the ban would be short-lived and setting himself publicly at odds with the pugnacious prime minister.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years, is battling a corruption scandal that has been fed by social media awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing. He did not mention the Twitter ban at two campaign rallies on Friday.
Turkey’s main opposition party said it would challenge the ban and file a criminal complaint against Erdogan on the grounds of violating personal freedoms. The country’s bar association filed a separate court challenge.
Twitter users called it a “digital coup”, some comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled. There were also calls for protests.
“Waking up to no Twitter in Turkey feels like waking up to a coup. The modern equivalent of occupying the radio stations,” U.S. author and journalist Andrew Finkel, who has reported from Turkey for more than 20 years, said on his Twitter account.
The ruling AK Party has already tightened Internet controls, handed government more influence over the courts, and reassigned thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors and judges as it fights the corruption scandal, which Erdogan has cast as a plot by political enemies to oust him.
Gul, seen as a more conciliatory figure than Erdogan, has been hesitant to openly criticise the prime minister in the run-up to the election, despite the brewing scandal and the latter’s increasing claims of a conspiracy against his government…. see more