March 25, 2015

Twitter blocks access to tweets by Today’s Zaman editors for ‘insulting’ PM

Twitter has blocked access two tweets by two top editors of Today's Zaman daily over Turkish court decisions which ruled that the posts contained “insults” at Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu has recently sued Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief of Today's Zaman Bülent Keneş and Managing Editor Celil Sağır over tweets they wrote, the latest in a series of similar cases filed against journalists in Turkey.

The two journalists received case documents, including formal allegations and copies of Twitter messages they had written criticizing Davutoğlu, on Tuesday. The legal complaint had been filed on Dec. 29, 2014.

On Wednesday, Twitter's legal team informed Keneş that it withheld access to one of his tweets which a Turkish court ruled contained insults at Davutoğlu. Twitter said an appeal filed by Twitter against the ruling to block access to his tweets has been rejected by an upper court. In the tweet, Keneş criticized Davutoğlu's failure to take independent decisions from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “We can soon hear statements [from Davutoğlu] saying ‘I lost my ID, it is null and void,” he wrote.

Twitter has also blocked access to some Twitter posts by Sağır for “insulting a public servant.” Sağır's two popular Twitter accounts had been earlier suspended by Twitter after a Turkish court ruled the accounts' content allegedly "tarnished the reputation" of government officials.

Also on Dec. 29 of last year, Keneş, Sağır and Sevgi Akarçeşme, who also a columnist for the Zaman daily, were sued in a move that has only contributed to the sense that media freedom in Turkey is deteriorating. However, these journalists were only informed about the case on Feb. 12, when they received documents including allegations and copies of their Twitter messages critical of Davutoğlu.

Media freedom in Turkey has been rapidly declining in the past few years and there seems to be no end in sight to a troubling trend that silenced most of the country's media. Freedom House ranked Turkey as "not free" in its latest Press Freedom Index and leading press advocacy bodies labeled Turkey as a country where practicing journalism is dangerous. Earlier this year, Today's Zaman correspondent Mahir Zeynalov was kicked out of the country for allegedly "insulting state dignitaries" on Twitter. He tweeted that the "Turkish Republic has never seen such a harmful leader. May God save the country from his evils," referring to Erdoğan. Erdoğan has also pressed charges against the newspaper's editor-in-chief Keneş over his tweets.

Published on Today's Zaman, 25 March 2015, Wednesday