This year I was invited to speak at IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress, as a part of a session focusing on intellectual freedom and freedom of information. As a part of the session, I talked about the current situation in Turkey and how it effects the librarians and freedom of information in general.
Although there was small connection issues and me not being able to go to Athens, I was glad to be a part of this congress and hopefully everyone listening the conversation had found it useful.
You can watch the whole session above. If you’re more of a reading person, there’ll be an article that summarizes my talk and adds more data and source over at IFLA/FAIFE blog soon. I’ll both link it here when it’s out and cross-post to the blog.
On my latest Global Voices article, I wrote about the latest censorship bill proposal and soon to be voted Security Bill in Turkey. I talked about what those bill could do and why and how Turkish government uses “national security” as an excuse for these.
The security bill proposed by AKP leaders looks scarier still, offering unprecedented powers to police and governors. The bill would authorize law enforcement to conduct telephone wiretapping for up to 48 hours without a warrant, authorizes police to arrest and detain anyone without a warrant up to 48 hours and stop and searches legal wherever police can find “reasonable doubt” of innocence.
Long story short: Two lovely people, Sara and Tigran, came from Sweden last March and said “We want to make a documentary about activists around the world and we want to interview with someone from Turkey too. We’ll talk about who you are, what are you doing, what’s your views about topics like this and that… Do you want to join?” And I said “Well, okay. Let’s try and see.” And this 14 minutes happened.
I’ve talked about a lot of things and did a lot of stuff like walking, sitting, showing places and a little security education to my friends at university. I guess I wasn’t so bad.
I’d like to hear what you’re thinking about so give it a shot. And feel free to comment about everything, even about my hair :)
Sadly, video doesn’t allow embedding so you can click my photo or the link below to watch.
I’ll be one of the contributors from Turkey. I’m planning to focus on my main interests such as censorship, surveillance, freedom of speech and digital activism in Turkey. Not sure how frequently I’ll write but I’ll do my best to cover every story happens in here that’s part of my interests.
My first story is published today. I’ve looked to situation of Turkey’s media on upcoming elections and of course how they are censoring candidates who isn’t Erdoğan. I want to say “hope you’ll like it” but things I wrote is not really likable.
Also if you saw the thumbnail photo but couldn’t find the original version on Global Voices article, I’ve embedded below and also uploaded it on Flickr. I took the photo yesterday and it’s licensed under CC and feel free to use if you liked it.
You’ve probably heard that Twitter blocked in Turkey. Also latest news adds that Google DNS is blocked too. I wanted to write something about it but I really don’t have enough time for writing a detailed piece about that right now. Instead of writing I’ll share our organization Alternative Informatics Association’s statement about this censorship. (You can read Turkish version of the statement here.)
Also Zeynep Tufekci wrote a great piece about that topic and she summaries every detail perfectly. You can read that here.
It’s Not Twitter It’s The Eclipse Of Reason
Twitter has become a basic communication tool for the users in Turkey to exercise freedom of speech. The President, The Prime Minister and the commissioners, journalists, bureaucrats, members of the parliament, writers, artists, unionists and activists, people with different political ideologies, oppressed groups and people from different parts of the society can state their opinions and participate in discussions about the current situations. In an environment where traditional media is constantly struggling with government oppression, communication tools like Twitter are crucial for the citizens. The only environment we can access to information without being censored is through the internet. To block an essential tool like Twitter just before the elections is unacceptable. It’s a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression.
Violation of the Right To Elect and the Right To Be Elected.
Turkey is on the eve of Local Elections. The running parties and the candidates use social media and Twitter frequently for their campaigns. This type of communication gives citizens the opportunity to follow the candidates closely, express their problems and hear the solutions that candidates can offer and also force them to create solutions. Therefore, blocking Twitter not only violates the freedom of speech but also violates the right to elect and to be elected.
We Are Concerned About The Integrity Of Upcoming Local Elections
We are experiencing great political tensions in expectation of the upcoming local elections that will take place on March 30th, 2014. These tensions are further solidified through distrust in the electoral process itself. The internet holds great potential for bringing citizen oversight to this process. It offers platforms and communication mechanisms to rapidly report on injustices and fraud attempts during the election data. Given current circumstances in Turkey, the internet is expected to play a crucial role in the supervision of the casting and counting of votes and hence in assuring the integrity and safety of the elections. The current blocking of internet based services is destructive to these citizen initiatives, increases existing social and political tensions, and negatively affects the trust in the electoral process. We are hence very concerned about both the integrity and safety of the upcoming elections.
Law Has Been Reduced To A Tool In The Hands Of The Government
The government points to court rulings to justify the blocking of Twitter. However, by now we are unsure about “whose” courts and rulings we can rely on. In the hands of the government, “legal grounds” are interpreted excessively or simply manipulated, leading to increasing distrust in the legal system. The Presidency of Telecommunications (Telekomunikasyon Iletisim Baskanligi or simply TIB) plays a precarious role in the enforcement of these legal rulings. In some past cases, they have abstained from taking action on select court rulings, arguing that it is beyond their legal authority. They have stated that TIB only has the authority to enforce blocking decisions when these are based on catalogued crimes. Yet in some cases, they have overstepped their authority and enforced rulings on blocking Internet based services. The arbitrary enforcement of legal rulings is in tune with the repeated threats made public by Prime Minister Erdoğan who most recently announced “we will eradicate social networks like Twitter”.
An “eclipse of reason” is the current state of the Turkish government. It is not possible to articulate a rational explanation for the new regulations, including the new Internet laws, and their enforcement within a framework of governance informed by basic democratic values. We can only regard these intrusive interventions as acts of despair and a lack of intellect.
These shameful acts of censorship are unacceptable. We call for action against censorship and the chilling of voices on the Internet, now!
Alternative Informatics Association, March 21st, 2014
Yesterday night, the censorship and surveillance bill has passed from Turkish parliament. At the same time, I wrote a letter to internet to say goodbye. Because after this bill, there won’t be a world wide web for Turkey anymore.
We, as people from Turkey, had a great time with you. You teach us so many things that we couldn’t learn from anywhere else. We had lots of great memories with you. You were always there whenever we needed you. But we have to say goodbye.
Turkish parliament passed the bill which is going to kill you. Maybe it’ll not kill you directly but you’ll be crippled and we can’t do everything we want together. There’s a little chance for you -presidential veto- but like I said, it’s a little chance.
UPDATE (08/02/2014):I want to thank everyone who shared my article and spread the word out. I wasn’t expecting that kind of response. Also I want to thank everyone who featured my article on their places. Here’s the links (AFAIK):
2014 started with a new bill proposal against free speech and internet freedom in Turkey. Down below, you can see what this new regulations brings if it passes. This list copied from Pirate Party Turkey’s blog post, which you can read here.
New methods of blocking “harmful” content will be implemented. Rather than censoring the entire website, these methods will target the direct URL of infringing sites.
Content that “denigrates particular sections of the society on account of social status, race, religion, sect, gender, region of origin” will be treated as a crime that warrants censorship.
The Internet Service Providers will be required to keep track of personal data and conduct sweeping surveillance on behalf of the government.
The new blocking methods will make it impossible to access the censored content by merely changing DNS settings.
The changes bear the possibility to outlaw any blogs in Turkey other than food, fashion, and travel blogs. Those that include political commentary in particular will be suspect.
New regulations will harm the Internet Service Providers who will, then, likely move their operations outside of Turkey.
Social media sites that our Prime Minister has characterized as “Menace called Twitter” and “Ugly technology Facebook” will be censored much easier.
Citizen journalism and independent media will be hit hardest.
If you’re a journalist interested about this topic and detailed Turkish material works for you, you can see the Alternative Informatics Association’s declaration about this. Our friends translating this to English right now and I’ll link the translation here too.
UPDATE 1: Alternative Informatics Association’s declaration about this bill is translated. You can read and share it from here.
UPDATE 2: There’s another English article published about this topic on DW. I gave opinions to this article and you can read it here.
Also activists planning an march against censorship on Jan. 18th. There isn’t so much detail on this topic but I’ll write here if anything happens.
Also yesterday night, Vimeo.com has blocked in Turkey with court order. We don’t know main reason but some rumors says this is about an video of PM Erdoğan’s family. I’ll update this topic too.
UPDATE 3: Another English article published at Wall Street Journal’s Europe Blogs, which you can read it here. Also Pirate Party Germany published a declaration about this bill, you can see it here (English and German).
I’ll update this post whenever some breaking news happens or new English material arrives. Latest Update: 14.01.2014 – 13:12