YouTube, Facebook and Twitter blocked in Turkey over images of Istanbul prosecutor siege

The Government objected to social media users sharing pictures from the hostage-takers which it calls 'terrorist propaganda'

Adam Withnall
Monday 06 April 2015 22:14 BST
A man 'attempts to access YouTube' after it and other social media sites were banned in Turkey by an Istanbul court's decision, 6 April, 2015
A man 'attempts to access YouTube' after it and other social media sites were banned in Turkey by an Istanbul court's decision, 6 April, 2015

The Turkish government has reportedly blocked access to a range of social media sites including Twitter and YouTube in a backlash over the sharing of images from a hostage siege in Istanbul.

Last week, far-left gunmen captured prominent Turkish prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz and published photographs showing him with a gun to his head online.

The prosecutor and his two captors were killed in a shootout involving security forces, but a Presidential spokesman has said that the sharing of images from the siege and “what happened in the aftermath is as grim as the incident itself”.

“This has to do with the publishing of the prosecutor’s picture,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.

He told a news conference in Ankara: “The demand from the prosecutor's office is that this image not be used anywhere in electronic platforms.”

On Monday morning users reported difficulties accessing Twitter, Facebook and YouTube according to the AFP News Agency. The latter video-sharing site’s homepage was replaced by text saying an “administration measure” had been implemented by the country’s telecommunications regulator.

Mr Kalin confirmed a prosecutor had sought the block on access to social media sites because, he said, some media organisations had acted “as if they were spreading terrorist propaganda” by publishing the images.

The government-run Anadolu Agency quoted the Union of Internet Providers as confirming that access to Twitter and YouTube has been blocked, though neither company issued a statement themselves.

Justifying the block, a senior Turkish official told Reuters: “The wife and children of prosecutor Kiraz have been deeply upset. The images are everywhere.

“A request has been made to both Twitter and YouTube for the removal of the images and posts but they have not accepted it and no response has been given. That's why this decision has been taken through a court in Istanbul.”

Turkey temporarily blocked Twitter and YouTube in the run-up to local elections in March 2014, after audio recordings purportedly showing corruption in then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's inner circle were leaked on their sites. That decision caused a public uproar and drew heavy international criticism.

Turkey filed five times more content-removal requests to Twitter than any other country in the second half of 2014, data published in February by the micro-blogging site showed. Last year, Turkey tightened laws allowing sites to be blocked by the authorities more easily.

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