CoE Commissioner Muznieks criticizes Turkish ban of social media

Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks has reiterated his concerns on the Turkish government’s attempt to ban certain social media outlets, describing the move as futile and calling on Turkish authorities to resolve the issue in line with European standards, reports Today’s Zaman.

The Gölbaşı Criminal Court of Peace blocked nationwide access to YouTube in a ruling on March 27, but it reversed its ruling on April 4 following an appeal. However, despite the court decision, the Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) insisted on blocking the entire website.

“Blocking an entire social media platform, as Turkey has [done] with YouTube and Twitter, is clearly a disproportionate response. If there is illegal content — perhaps content that violates the right to private life or other types of illegal content — it can be blocked, subject to a court ruling,” he said.

In a recording published on YouTube that reportedly led to the site being banned, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler can be heard discussing a possible intervention in Syria and potential responses from the international community.

Turkey’s restrictions on freedom of expression and access to social media have drawn the ire of European officials.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said Turkey must not only respect European Union norms but also abide by them and that blocking websites will not help the nation’s EU accession process, a German media outlet reported on April 5.

“The accession process also means not just respecting European values, but putting them into practice in the respective country as well,” the Deutsche Welle broadcasting service reported Steinmeier as saying after an informal meeting of EU ministers in Athens on Saturday. “This cannot be reconciled at all with blocking Internet information and restricting freedom of opinion and of the press,” he said.

Concerns about Internet freedoms sprung up in February, when Parliament passed a controversial law granting the government’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) the power to block any website, without permission from a court, for privacy violations. The European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament (EP) criticized the Internet law in separate statements, saying it raised concerns that the government was tightening its grip on access to the Internet and information.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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