News / Europe

    Turkish PM Takes Aim at Social Media

    People rest in Kugulu Park in Ankara, Turkey, June 24, 2013.
    People rest in Kugulu Park in Ankara, Turkey, June 24, 2013.
    Dorian Jones
    Turkey's prime minister has condemned social media and promised a crackdown on it and its users. There have already been arrests, and new legislation is being drafted to curb its use. But observers claim social media will be increasingly used in the face of a growing police crackdown on protests.

    Prime Minister Erdogan is on the stump rallying the party faithful against weeks of civil unrest against what protestors claim is his increasingly authoritarian rule. But addressing thousands of supporters Saturday, he dismissed fears of authoritarianism, claiming the unrest is part a grand international conspiracy that now includes Brazil.
     
    "The game played on Brazil recently was the same game that was played on Turkey. The tweets and Facebook messages are the same. These protests [in Turkey] have from the beginning been carried out with grave misconduct, and with malicious intent. They constantly lied, engaged in constant manipulation, published fabricated news, hurled insults, and trampled on justice, " said Erdogan.
     
    Erdogan has described social media as a great menace to society for spreading lies and half truths about his government. According to Erdogan's government, social media is a key element in the international plot against him. The government has already confirmed it’s trawling through five million tweets and considering new Internet legislation, as well as extending the powers of the country's spy agency.

    Emma Sinclair Webb, researcher on Turkey for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, says there is a legal basis for controlling tweets. But she worries any new powers maybe abused.

    "You can only restrict speech and tweets and writings if they present a direct and imminent threat. So the threshold has to be placed high on any restrictions. Unfortunately what we’ve seen in Turkey for years, whereby dissenting opinion becomes something that gets convicted in the courts, where it shouldn’t," said Webb.

    A video clip of a demonstrator overwhelmed by a sea of tear gas in Taksim Square, the heart of the nationwide protests went viral in Turkey. Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, are being used by protestors to expose police violence and, as in the Arab Spring, they provide a platform for demonstrators to organize.

    Yaman Akdeniz is an expert on cyber freedom at Istanbul's Bilgi University. He says while the importance of social media is growing, he worries about a looming crackdown.
     
    "People will now switch more to social media platforms because that is one area the government authorities have no control over. You cannot throw water cannon or tear gas on the social media platform. But I don't personally expect the government to control social media platforms; no other government managed to do this. So I think they are going to concentrate on prosecutions, on identification of people - and then everyone is concerned, because they don't know if they are going to be investigated or detained. A lot of people were detained in [the Turkish cities of] Izmir and Adana," said Akdeniz.

    Turkish television Saturday showed video of police conducting dawn raids and arresting 22 people. Many people have already been arrested for tweeting.
     
    In a trendy Istanbul downtown café, a group of protesters with laptops and tablets in hand are discussing what their next move will be. With some demonstrators charged under the country's anti-terror and organized crime laws, everyone is aware of the risks they are now taking, as this protester explains.
     
    "I worry for my close friends that might be detained, and they [the authorities] might try to imprison some of these people for life.  I fear for a lot of people. But that's just the personal aspect of it: when I look at the country, I am really not worried anymore, because I see the people. This is the first time in these lands (that) the people are truly revolting [rebelling] for democracy, for everyone," he said.

    During the weeks of unrest, police have played cat and mouse with protestors on the streets of Turkey's cities. Now observers warn that the struggle is spreading to cyberspace.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora