PEN International Demands that Turkey Reinstate Twitter Access as a Civil Right

Posted on March 23, 2014

PEN International has denounced Turkey for banning access to Twitter. During a press conference, the Prime Minister of Turkey vowed to eliminate the micro blogging site. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan called for the ban and Directorate of Information Technology and Communication (BTK) complied.

The national ban on Twitter came after a number of embarrassing recordings were released of government officials discussing their routine manipulation of the media to influence public opinion and other acts of corruption. The ban comes just a week before local elections and is intended to stop opposition voices from being heard.

Elif Shafak, Turkish author and PEN member said, "The Twitter ban is yet another attempt to stifle freedom of speech in a country where books can be censored, translators sued, journalists targeted, and where thought can be a crime. Turkey's peoples, including the young, women, minorities, all deserve a mature democracy. It is unacceptable, and ultimately unworkable, to enforce such a ban in the digital age."

PEN Interntaional said in a statement,

A healthy democracy does not attempt to stifle the voices of its citizens. Twitter is a vehicle of expression that gives a voice to each and every user, regardless of class, religion, ethnicity or political stature. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he does not care what the international community says with regard to the Twitter ban; we call on him to care about the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Turkey.

"Turkey is a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which protect the right to legitimate freedom of expression. We urge the government of Turkey to recognise its obligations under these treaties and to lift the block on Twitter with immediate effect."

Turkey has a dismal record on censorship and freedom of speech. The government routinely censors its authors and journalists and throws them in prison if their writings are considered critical of the government or its policies, which have grown increasingly repressive over the years. The EU and human rights organizations keeps complaining, to no avail.

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