[JURIST] A spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a prosecutor ordered Internet providers to block social networking sites including Twitter and YouTube. The order stems from photos posted on the social media sites that show militant Marxists pointing a gun at a prosecutor who died last week during a shootout between police and the Marxists who were holding him hostage. The government-run Anadolu Agency [official website] said Internet providers notified Twitter and YouTube about the images and requested removal, but photos and videos continued to be posted on the sites. Government officials called the images anti-government propaganda and blasted Turkish media for the postings. Twitter stated [Twitter policy account] that it is working to restore access for users as soon as possible. The journalists group Turkish Press Council argued the ban is in conflict with democracy: “It is meaningless to totally shut down social platforms—which contain billions of useful information—to the use of the Turkish people because of some unsuitable content.”
Turkish authorities have been condemned for blocking social media sites in the past. In September Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] party was taking steps to weaken the rule of law, control Internet and media and suppress critics and protesters. Last April the Turkish government lifted a ban [JURIST report] on Twitter following a Constitutional Court ruling, which stated that the ban violated both individual rights as well as the freedom of expression.