Two weeks after winning the Turkish constitutional referendum by a modest but decisive margin, president – or perhaps it is now despot – Erdogan decided to take his newly decreed powers for a spin and overnight in rapid succession surprised foreign observers when Turkey decreed that it would ban TV dating shows, fire an additional 4,000 public officials and also ban Wikipedia.
The country’s Official Gazette published the decrees on Saturday evening. The first named thousands of civil servants to be dismissed, including nearly 500 academics and more than 1,000 Turkish military personnel. The decree also reinstated 236 people to their jobs. The second decree, among other things, bans radio and television programs for “finding friends and spouses” according to AP.
The latest purge follows more than 47,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 have been terminated for alleged connections to terror organizations, and takes place with Turkey under a state of emergency resulting from last summer’s failed “coup” attempt which Erdogan blamed on the “shadow state” directed by the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who currently resides in rural Pennsylvania.
Erdogan’s decree also banned several popular TV dating shows, a move that reportedly had been in the worls for months.
“In radio and television broadcasting services, such programmes in which people are introduced to find a friend…. cannot be permitted,” said the text of the decree.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in March that the ban was in the pipeline, arguing the shows do not fit in with Turkish traditions and customs.
“There are some strange programmes that would scrap the institution of family, take away its nobility and sanctity,” Kurtulmus said at the time.
Some see in this decree the first traces of Turkey sliding back away from the secular state, established less than a century ago by the creator of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and toward conservative Islam under Erdogan. However, AKP supporters have responded that dating shows receive thousands of complaints every year and the ban is in the public interest.
Separately, Turkey also said it had blocked all access to Wikipedia; the country’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority implemented the ban against the online encyclopedia because Wikipedia “had failed to remove content promoting terror and accusing Turkey of cooperation with various terror groups” according to AFP. “There was no indication when the ban might be removed, with a formal court order expected to follow in the coming days.”
In response to the news, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales tweeted that “access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”
In an ironic twist, AFP notes that the incident quickly spawned its own separate Wikipedia entry, “Wikipedia blocked in Turkey.” This is what it says:
On the morning of 29 April 2017, following news from Turkey Blocks that all language versions of Wikipedia had been blocked in Turkey, several reports were published of the event. The BBC reported that the Turkish authorities had blocked all access to Wikipedia in the country from 8.00 GMT. No reason was given by Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority which simply stated: “”After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website.” Voice of America reported that Turkish media had explained the blockage was a result of “terror-related content”. NDTV said that the move had caused strong reactions on the social media against the decision to deny access to “one of the world’s most popular websites”.
Law No. 5651, known as the Internet Act (IA), was enacted on 4 May 2007. The purpose of this law has been described by the PTC as follows: “There are 2 reasons for the law to be brought out. The first reason; determining the liability and the responsibility of collective use providers, access providers, location providers and content providers which are the main actors of the Internet. The other reason is to determine the procedures and fundamentals related to the specific crimes committed over the Internet and fighting these through content, location and access providers.” More recently, the law has been used to censor individuals, journalists and the media. The European Council’s Venice Commission has found the law to be particularly controversial.
Now Wikipedia is readable but not editable with FreeWiki by Crypt.space in Turkey
Over the past several years, Turkey has repeatedly blocked – so far on a temporary basis – popular websites such as Facebook and Twitter, usually shortly after major events such as mass protests or terror attacks take place.
With Erdogan now having what is effectively absolute power, it is likely that many more shutdowns, this time permament, of popular social networks and media outlets are in Turkey’s immediate future, especially as Erdogan is likely poised to coalesce even more power. As the following AFP chart shows, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been virtually unopposed in 12 successive elections, as well as referendums, since president Erdogan he came to power in 2002.
Which is to be expected with Europe constantly turning a blind eye to Erdogan’s transgressions due to his strategic location at the nexus between Asia and Europe. In the past two years, Erdogan’s leverage has only grown as there are now over 2 million Syrian refugees held inside Turkey’s borders, which could be deployed in direction Europe, any time Brussels, or Berlin, engages in any activity that Erdogan disproves of. Which also explains how Erdogan managed to accumulate virtually supreme power while all of Turkey’s “democratic” peers and neighbors looked the other way.
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