Turkey defends Twitter ban

Written by AFP | Ankara | Updated: Mar 23 2014, 02:44am hrs
Turkey's government today defended its internationally condemned ban on Twitter as a "preventive measure" after the social networking site was awash with recordings highlighting alleged public corruption.

"Twitter has been used as a means to carry out systematic character assassinations by circulating illegally acquired recordings, fake and fabricated records of wiretapping," the prime minister's office of public diplomacy said in a statement sent to AFP in English.

It added that the government was not against the Internet but what it said was "the free circulation of the illegally acquired recordings over Twitter and other social networking sites which aim at hampering national security and the reputation of the citizens."

Turkey took the radical step of blocking access to Twitter on Thursday after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government is engulfed in a vast corruption scandal, defiantly

vowed to "wipe out" the messaging service.

Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, has also threatened to ban YouTube and Facebook following crucial local elections on March 30, which will be a test of the premier's popularity.

The government said it took a "preventive measure" after the US-based social media giant refused to abide by "hundreds of court rulings" since last January on the removal of content deemed illegal.

Critics however claim the government is trying to clampdown on the spread of corruption allegations targeting Erdogan and his inner circle, just ahead of the highly-charged elections.

Erdogan is facing mounting pressure after almost daily audio recordings spread across social media including Twitter purportedly exposed his alleged involvement in corruption.

Some of the most damaging information has come from two Twitter accounts under the names Haramzadeler ("Sons of Thieves") and Bascalan (a pseudonym meaning "Prime Thief" used to ridicule Prime Minister). They appear to have access to a huge trove of secret documents and police wiretaps linked to the investigation.

Voice tapes allegedly portray Erdogan talking with his son about disguising vast sums of money, as well as his interference in business deals, court cases, media coverage and the sale of prime property in Turkey's mega city Istanbul.