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Turkish Authorities on Blocking Binge as Political Tensions Rise

Demotix image from 8 February 2014 by Görkem Keser. Hundreds of people gather on Istiklal Street to protest against the new internet censorship laws approved by Turkish government. Police used water cannon and teargas to disperse the protesters. ID: 3883727.

Demotix image from 8 February 2014 by Görkem Keser. Hundreds of people gather on Istiklal Street to protest against the new internet censorship laws approved by Turkish government. Police used water cannon and teargas to disperse the protesters. ID: 3883727.

Tensions in Turkish politics have reached new heights this summer. This is easy to see just by looking at the Internet, where the ruling government controlled by the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) has begun blocking profiles and news websites en masse.

After inconclusive elections in June, the four parties of Parliament now have until August 23 to create a ruling coalition or face another round of elections in autumn. Among them is the pro-Kurdish HDP party whose emergence dismantled the ruling majority once held by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan AKP party.

The prospect of the parties managing to form a coalition is extremely unlikely, particularly in the wake of a July bombing attack in which an ISIS suicide attacker killed 33 citizens in Suruç, in the east of the country. HDP and AKP traded accusations over the incident and the government has since pumped up its anti-terror rhetoric.

In the meantime, Turkey has gone headfirst into the conflict in Iraq and Syria, a decision likely driven by AKP's need to improve on their showing in the June poll as coalition talks stall.

These newspapers are ‘crime machines’

The first wave of website-blocking came shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's statements on Habertürk TV on Press Freedom Day, July 24.

Arınç said:

A number of newspapers, including Özgür Gündem and Evrensel, are crime machines. If [government officials] would file complaints against them, they would be overwhelmed with penalties. They use expressions that praise the acts of a terrorist organization. But if we were to file cases against them, they would use [the cases] against us. They would keep writing the same things.

Özgür Gündem and Evrensel are well-known Turkish newspapers. They are both openly leftist and supportive of HDP as well as greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish-populated regions generally.

While it was primarily ISIS that drew Ankara into the war, Turkish military operations have largely targeted bases belonging to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq, even killing ethnic Kurdish civilians living in the region's Zergele village.

Soon after Arınç spoke on July 25, 96 websites were blocked inside Turkey, including the websites of news outlets like ANF (Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê – Fırat News Agency) , DİHA (Dicle Haber Ajansı – Dicle News Agency), ETHA (Etkin Haber Ajansı – Etkin News Agency), local online newspapers like Yüksekova Haber and unionist news site

All of these outlets were strongly critical of AKP and the military strikes in the Kurdish-occupied Middle East. Also on July 25, a court order asking Twitter to suspend a list of accounts in Turkey began circulating online. It is not clear whether Twitter complied with the request. The list can be seen in the tweet below.

Twitter accounts which court ordered to be blocked…

As Efe Kerem Sözeri pointed out on Medium, the latest bout of mass censorship offers more evidence that Turkey's once-independent judiciary is coming further under AKP control and delivering verdicts without due consideration.

The Ankara court, which reviewed and approved government’s ban on 96 websites, apparently found nothing wrong to ban a non-existing website “” and ban ANF twice in the list provided by the government. It is hard to assume that the court has seriously considered the public’s right to information or individual freedom of speech whatsoever.

Second wave of blocking

The government has shown no signs of letting up in its censorship attempts. For example on July 26,, the alternative domain of, was also blocked. News agencies DİHA and ANF had separate domains connected to their operations quickly shut down.

Moreover, pro-AKP social media accounts have been publishing manipulated screenshots and sharing articles that discredit these outlets.

Here, a pro-government tweep bashed the leftist Özgür Gündem newspaper, claiming that they forged photos of civilian deaths in Zergele to make the Turkish military look bad.

Won't we apply any sanctions to Özgür Gündem? Nobody is going to condemn them? Will they just get away with the crime they committed?

Opposition-minded journalists have also suffered attacks on their personal accounts on social media.

Finally, on August 10, another news site disappeared from the Web. This time, Turkish telecommunications regulator TİB censored Dağ Medya, one of Turkey's best-known data journalism websites, citing “administrative measures.”

The website was banned without a court order or explanation according to Law 5651, Turkey's notorious censorship bill, which came into force last year.

The latest assault

Currently all these websites remain banned in Turkey. Although cyber rights activists such as Yaman Akdeniz and Kerem Altıparmak are pushing to lift the bans via legal channels, another wave of censorship seems more likely.

Censorship has a deep impact on Turkish society. US-based Turkish sociologist Zeynep Tüfekçi recently tweeted:

Kuşburnu, a digital rights activist working under a pseudonym, has been documenting the pro-government smear campaign against Kurdish and leftist media. The activist also recently published an up-to-date list of all the websites that have been blocked in Turkey since Bülent Arınç's speech.

They are as follows:

- Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firate
– BestaNûçe ANF ve DİHA Haberleri,
– Dağ Medya
– Devrimci Haber
– Bitlis Aktüel
– Denge Azad
– Güncel Yorum
– Ajansa Nûçeyan a Dicleye
– Türkistan İslam Bülteni
– Ümmet-i İslam
– Newededersim
– Haber Dersim
– Ajansa Kurdî
– Halkınsesi TV
– Amed Times
– Kurdistan Haber Postası
– Med Nûçe
– Öteki Haber
– Peyama Azadî
– Etkin Haber Ajansı
– Xqw News (Sunucu erişimi yok.)
– Ajansa Nûçeyen Kurdî Haber –
– Ajansa Nûçeyan Fırate (Sunucu erişimi yok.)
– Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firate
– Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firate (Site yapım aşamasında.)
– Avaşîn
– Avesta Kurd
– Avrupa Halkın Sesi (Sunucu erişimi yok.)
– Azadiya Welat (Site yapım aşamasında.)
– Azady
– BasNews
– Besta Nûçe
– Besta Nûçe
– Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firate
– Anha
– Ajansa Kurdî
– Kurdinfo Platform
– Cizre Postası
– Dicle Fırat Haber Ajansı
– Ajansa Nûçeyan a Dicleye
– Kurdish Question
– Kurdistan Aktuel
– Kurdistan Aktuel
– Navenda Lekolinen
– Navenda Lekolinen
– Gelawej
– Kurdistan Media
– The Kurdistan Tribune
– Kurdiu
– Rojeva Kurdistan
– Rojhelat
– Rojname
– Rojnews
– Rûdaw
– Sendika
– Sendika
– American Kurdish Information Network
– Kurdistan Post
– Kurdistan Haber Portalı (Site yapım aşamasında.)
– Maverahaber (Alan adı durdurulmuş.)
– Özgür Gündem
– Pirtûkxane
– Rast Haber
– Rojaciwan
– Serokatî
– Serokatî
– The Sham News
– Risgari Online
– Ümmet-i İslam
– Xendan
– Yeni Demokratik Gençlik,
– Yeni Özgür Politika
– Yeni Özgür Politika
– Ypg News
– Yüksekova Haber
– Inca News


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