A Turkish court has ruled against Prime Minister Erdogan’s unilateral decision to ban Twitter from the nation after the threatened leak of corruption allegations. As The FT reports, the Ankara district court imposed a stay on the measure after hearing arguments from the Turkish Bar Association that the ban was disproportionate and illegal. While government officials have agreed they would implement the court’s ruling, so far there has been no change. Twitter has officially responded expressing concern at the ban and filing further petitions to have it lifted as rumors spread of a “spectacular leak” in the next few days ahead of Sunday’s elections.
A Turkish court has ruled against the country’s ban on Twitter, which has attracted widespread international condemnation, in the last heated days before nationwide elections.
The Ankara district court imposed a stay on the measure after hearing arguments from the Turkish Bar Association that the ban was disproportionate and illegal. The US State Department has described the block as the 21st century equivalent of book burning while the UN High Commission for Human Rights this week became the latest in a series of international bodies to call for the lifting of the ban.
Bulent Arinc, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said the government would implement the court’s ruling, but did not specify when. Meanwhile, both the country’s constitutional court and the Telecommunications Authority, the body that formally imposed the measure, were due to discuss the ban today.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Twitter was only accessible in Turkey for those using technical workarounds such as virtual private networks.
While it was initially depicted as the result of court orders, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish prime minister, has acknowledged that it was his decision to institute the ban.
Following a series of leaks spread on the microblogging platform circulating corruption allegations against Mr Erdogan and his government, the prime minister described Twitter as a threat to national security. The prime minister has also denounced some of the leaks as fabrications.
Many lawyers say the government is paying little attention to the rule of law, with the governing AK party also disregarding a recent ban on an election advertisement that used national symbols for party political reasons. Mr Erdogan said he would “ban the ban”.
There are also a number of rumors of more leaks ahead of the elections:
Further leaks have been expected on Twitter and other social media platforms ahead of local elections on Sunday that Mr Erdogan has depicted as a referendum on his rule and a riposte to the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a former ally the prime minister blames for both the leaks and the corruption inquiry.
But one of the anonymous Twitter users who spread the allegations said that rumours that a spectacular leak was planned for March 25 were unfounded.
But Twitter has also responded:
- *TWITTER SAYS IT FILED PETITIONS IN TURKEY TO HAVE BAN LIFTED
- *TWITTER SAYS IT’S ENGAGED WITH TURKISH AUTHORITIES ABOUT BAN
- *TWITTER SAYS 2 ORDERS RELATE TO ALREADY PROHIBITED CONTENT
- *TWITTER SAYS CONCERNED ABOUT REQUEST TO BAN TURKEY GRAFT LEAKER
It’s now been six days since the Turkish government blocked access to Twitter. Throughout this time, we’ve been engaged in discussion with Turkish authorities to hear their concerns, inform them about how our platform and policies work, and try and bring this situation to a resolution. But still, the millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that.
So today, we filed petitions for lawsuits we have been working on together with our independent Turkish attorney over the last few days in various Turkish courts to challenge the access ban on Twitter, joining Turkish journalists and legal experts, Turkish citizens, and the international community in formally asking for the ban to be lifted.
The purported legal basis for the ban is three court orders (none of which were provided to us prior to the ban) and a public prosecutor’s request.
Two of the three court orders relate to content that violated our own Rules and is already suspended. The last order instructed us to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. This order causes us concern. Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption. That’s why today we have also petitioned the Turkish court on behalf of our users to reverse this order.
While we contest the order, we are using our Country Withheld Content tool on the account in question, the first time we’ve used it in Turkey, as well as on several Tweets based on the public prosecutor’s request regarding the safety of an individual. The tool allows content to be withheld in a specific jurisdiction while remaining visible to the rest of the world. We have already provided notice of this action to the affected users, and are posting all information we’re legally able to disclose about the withholdings to Chilling Effects.
With all announced bases for the access ban addressed, there are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey. Furthermore, with positive developments today concerning judicial review of this disproportionate and illegal administrative act of access banning the whole of Twitter, we expect the government to restore access to Twitter immediately so that its citizens can continue an open online dialogue ahead of the elections to be held at the end of this week.