News / Europe

Turkey Hosts Internet Forum Despite Its Dismal Web Freedom

FILE - A man types on a computer keyboard.
FILE - A man types on a computer keyboard.
Dorian Jones

The site selected for the United Nations forum on developing Internet policy is generating a great deal of controversy, with critics taking aim at the irony of Turkey's poor record regarding social media, Web sites and press freedom.

Over the past year alone, Turkey has shut down Twitter, blocked YouTube, and jailed journalists and bloggers. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even called Twitter a “menace to society.”

A number of non-governmental organizations and activists are boycotting the four-day event this week over Turkey's Internet freedom record, according to Yaman Akdeniz, an Internet activist and professor of cyber law at Istanbul’s Bilgi University.

"The situation in Turkey has moved from bad to worse. When you have such a problematic approach to Internet governance, then that should not be the host for such a major annual event," said Akdeniz.

Web use

The forum is an annual global gathering that aims to bring together governments, activists and business to discuss how to regulate and encourage use of the Web.

Organizations and activists are accusing the forum of caving in to Turkish government demands to remove a number of controversial topics from the session, a charge denied both by Ankara and the organizers.

Observers say Turkey has a very poor record of protecting free expression online, with tens of thousands of websites being blocked under legislation passed in 2007. Internet controls were further tightened in February this year.

The world spotlight was cast on Turkey when social media sites You Tube and Twitter were banned earlier this year by authorities, who claimed they were being used to spread accusations of high-level government graft. The bans were subsequently overturned by the country’s constitutional court.

Human rights

EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs Neelie Kroes, speaking Tuesday in Istanbul, said the 28-nation grouping remains concerned.

"It's part of a troubling trend for free speech and free media in Turkey that is a trend, and concern that many in the international community have been highlighting for some time," said Kroes.

Ankara’s bid to join the EU has been stalled, in part due to growing concerns over human rights and, in particular, freedom of expression. Observers say concerns have grown since last year’s crackdown on anti-government protests.

The U.N. insists the choice of Turkey was normal, as it has rotated between all member nations. Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Gaas defended the Istanbul venue at Tuesday’s press conference.

"The United Nations works to promote an in-depth discussion of an open, free Internet and we believe this discussion has to take place; it is good that this discussion is taking place here," said Gaas.

Freedom of speech

So far, Ankara has refused to comment on the controversy. Most plenary sessions organized by Turkish authorities are focusing on the protection of the family. The Turkish government argues its controversial Internet legislation is intended only to protect children.

But Emma Sinclair Webb, senior researcher for Turkey for New York based Human Rights Watch, said forum organizers should not turn a blind eye to the Turkish government’s increasingly stringent approach to freedom of speech online.

"The striking irony of Turkey hosting the Internet Governance Forum is that Turkey’s own record on Internet freedom is abysmal. From our point of view, holding the governance forum gives us good opportunity to throw the international spotlight on Turkey’s appalling Internet freedom record," said Webb.

With opponents of the forum planning a series of events in its last two days, some say Ankara's hopes that the controversy will dissipate and the country would be able to raise its international profile as a fast developing country seem set to be dashed.

 

 

 

 

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid