On Again, Off Again: Understanding Turkey’s Social Media ‘Problem’

Ismail Caglar pointed out to the media ethics when deciding to feed readers with images about sensitive issues.

Turkish internet users started the week with a countrywide ban on Twitter and video-sharing website YouTube following a prosecutorial order. However, the bans were shortly lifted, with Twitter accessible by Monday evening and YouTube access opened up on Tuesday.

The order was based on the refusal of about 160 websites to remove controversial photographs and posts about two members of the outlawed far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

On March 31, they took hostage Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was killed during the rescue operation.

More than a dozen media organizations and journalists also had their accreditation withheld for the funeral of Kiraz on April 1 because they published the photos.

The list of those media outlets were as follows: Hürriyet, Cumhuriyet, Bugün, Milat, Taraf and Zaman newspapers as well as CNN Türk, Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, İMC TV; Samanyolu TV, Cihan News Agency and Doğan News Agency.

Four Turkish newspapers –Hurriyet, Cumhuriyet, Posta and Bugun- faced a criminal investigation on April 2 for the same reason.

On late April 6, Istanbul’s 1st Criminal Court of Peace notified Turkey’s Internet Service Providers Union, issued a warning to block access to Google’s search engine, if images of slain prosecutor remain on the engine. However, Google remained intact from a possible closure, allegedly because it removed the content mentioned in the court ruling.

National security concerns

Ismail Caglar, director of media-communication researches from Ankara-based think-tank SETA, pointed out to the media ethics when deciding to feed readers with images about sensitive issues.

“During all similar situations in France during Charlie Hebdo or the video featuring a British journalist beheading by ISI[S], Twitter shut down related accounts and showing the video on the grounds that they are making terrorist propaganda, without any court ruling or governmental request,” Caglar told Al Arabiya News.

Caglar also said that this phenomenon should be seen as an example for Turkish media to abide by professional ethics that are based on universal standards and that forbids publishing images about terrorist acts.

“The relevant court ruling aimed for removing the relevant content, but as it was widespread enormously, an obligation occurred for shutting down the social media sites completely,” he added.

[Al Arabiya News, April 8, 2015]

In this article