Erdogan defiant despite Gul hope Turkey will lift Twitter ban

Written by AFP | Ankara | Updated: Mar 24 2014, 04:34am hrs
Turkey's defiant Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a fierce new attack on social media today, just hours after the president voiced hope the government would soon lift its controversial ban on Twitter.

The conflicting comments from Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul underscore what appears to be a growing gulf between the two men just a week before crucial local elections.

The Twitter ban has been condemned by critics as a bid to muzzle a widening corruption scandal dogging the government and has drawn strong rebukes from rights groups and Turkey's Western allies.

"I believe this problem will be over soon," Gul told reporters before leaving for a visit to the Netherlands. This is of course an unpleasant situation for such a developed country as Turkey, which has weight in the region and which is negotiating with the European Union."

The ban was implemented Thursday shortly after Erdogan threatened to "wipe out" Twitter. Erdogan also took aim at popular Facebook and YouTube which he had previously threatened to ban after the local polls are held on March 30.

"I cannot understand how sensible people still defend Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. They run all kinds of lies," he said at an election rally in the northwestern province of Kocaeli.

"I am obliged to take measures in the face of any attack threatening my country's security even if the world stands up against us."

The government yesterday accused Twitter of being "biased and prejudiced" and said the US-based social media giant had failed to abide by hundreds of court orders to remove content deemed illegal.

Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been rocked by a corruption scandal that has ensnared members of the political and business elite.

The AKP is also struggling to shake off the after-effects of mass anti-government protests last year that were organised partly on Twitter, prompting Erdogan to label the site a "menace".

"Blocking access to Twitter is the work of a government which is losing its self-confidence and strength," veteran journalist Kadri Gursel wrote in the Milliyet newspaper.

Social media networks have been flooded almost daily with recordings allegedly depicting Erdogan talking with his son about hiding vast sums of money and interfering in court cases, business deals and media coverage.