Sunday, April 6, 2014

Media, Social Media Freedom: Turkey in Murky Waters

Rabin Man Shakya

In the months since Turkey has been facing political turbulence, this Muslim-majority nation has found an unlikely foe: the social media. Turkey was without the access to Twitter for 13 days, thanks to the Turkish government ban on it. But the government had to lift its block on access to Twitter Inc recently after the Constitutional Court ruled the ban - imposed by the government in March just ahead of local elections - was unconstitutional.

But Turkey is still without the access to YouTube because the Turkish government had blocked it following an audio recording leaked on YouTube had revealed that top officials in Turkey were plotting to fake an attack against their own country as an excuse to wage war on Syria.

According to the Wall Street Journal (April 4, 2014), "Many Turkish users celebrated Twitter's return by posting pictures lampooning the government for banning it. One widely shared image showed Twitter's blue bird logo being released from a cage cloaked in Turkish colors. But the lifting of the ban may not reverse the damage done to Turkey's international reputation."

No wonder, Turkey ranks 154th among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) on Feb 12, 2014, just behind war-torn nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Turkey has failed to make progress in its press freedom record. Turkey continues to rank among the "world's biggest prisons for journalists," according to the latest index released by RWB. In Turkey, dozens of journalists have been detained on the pretext of the "fight against terrorism," above all those who cover the Kurdish issue, the RWB report added.

Therefore, the uncertainty in Turkey's journalistic and social media spectrum is far from over, especially when arrogant Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared: "We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook. We will take necessary steps in the strongest way."

There is no doubt that the knee-jerk reactions demonstrated by the ruling Turkish officials about the social media is totally inappropriate and unsubstantiated. This is a testimony that Turkey is not serious about the press freedom and freedom of the people to use social media.

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