Turkey: Blanket blocking of Twitter is a serious violation of the right to free speech

Turkey: Blanket blocking of Twitter is a serious violation of the right to free speech - Digital

A police helicopter and birds hover overhead as Islamists demonstrate in front of the Beyiazid mosque against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey.

ARTICLE 19 condemns today’s decision by the Turkish authorities to block access to Twitter in the country. The Turkish Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) restricted access to Twitter only hours after Prime Minister Erdogan stated his desire to “root out Twitter”. The blocking of Twitter was justified by the TİB on the basis of four court orders where the action was said to be a “protective measure”.

“The decision to block access to an entire social network is a serious violation of the right to freedom of expression. People are entitled to make comments, share views and make reference to public debates in public spaces such as social network sites like Twitter.” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

“The internet provides new spaces for individuals to practice free speech. However, we are witnessing an authoritarian trend by governments to control such spaces, restrict access to information and block public discussions”, he added.

“The Turkish authorities should unblock access to Twitter with immediate effect”, said Thomas Hughes.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the decision to block access to Twitter is politically motivated to stop the free flow of information and aimed to quash protests against corruption allegations directed at the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

At the same time Turkey presents a different face to the international community. Ironically, the day before it blocked Twitter at home the Turkish delegation at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva tabled a resolution that recognises the important role internet users play in documenting human rights violations committed in the context of peaceful protest. The resolution will be considered for adoption by the HRC next week.


Over the past months You-tube users in Turkey have been posting voice recordings and documents that purportedly provide evidence of corruption among Prime Minister Erdogan and the AKP.

Today, the telecommunications watchdog, Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) released a press statement explaining that access to Twitter was blocked after complaints were made by individual citizens with regards to a breach of their right to privacy. Twitter had refused to remove the pages that were in breach, “leaving no option but to block Twitter in accordance with court orders”, according to BTK.

Amendments made to Turkeys’ Law on regulating Internet Broadcasts (Law 5651) were enacted in late February amidst strong criticism and fear that they would introduce further internet censorship measures, an increase in government control over the internet and removal of judicial oversight.

In December 2012 in a landmark case – the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the Turkish government in a case(Ahmet Yildirim v. Turkey – no.3111/10) regarding the blocking of access to an entire online platform. The Court found this to be in violation of the right to freedom of expression and found the legal framework in place in Turkey inadequate, failing to provide sufficient safeguards against abuses.

ARTICLE 19 reiterates its call to the Turkish government to refrain from blocking access to entire platforms, which contain perfectly legitimate online content. Any blocking decision must take due account of its potential impact on the right to freedom of expression.

The Turkish authorities should:

  • Unblock access to Twitter with immediate effect
  • Amend Law 5651 and bring it in line with international standards for free expression