Turkey on Saturday said Twitter was “biased” and had been used for “systematic character assassinations” of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government, a day after Ankara’s ban on the site prompted an international outcry.
However, a senior Turkish government official later told Reuters that talks with the social media company on resolving problems which led to the block were going positively.
The Turkish authorities blocked Twitter late on Thursday, hours after Erdogan vowed to “wipe out” the social media service during the campaigning period for local elections on March 30.
Leading condemnation from Western governments and rights organisations, the White House said the Twitter ban undermined democracy and free speech in Turkey.
The site remained blocked in Turkey on Saturday. Those trying to access it found an Internet page carrying court rulings saying it had been blocked as a “protection measure”. Many Turks reported difficulties in accessing not just Twitter but the Internet as a whole, according to media reports and comments on social media.
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Meanwhile, Erdogan rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters on Sunday, dismissing accusations of intolerance by Western and domestic critics for closing down Twitter. “I don’t care who it is. I’m not listening,” he said to cheers. “The usual media are attacking us. What do they call it? ‘Intolerance of freedoms’,” he said . “I don’t care who it is, I’m not listening. Even if the world stands up against us, I am obliged to take measure against every attack that threatens my nation’s security.
“This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook, they have shaken families to their roots…I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.” Erdogan’s office said in a statement the ban on Twitter had come in response to the company’s “defiance” in failing to comply with hundreds of court rulings since last January.
“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 PM’s office said.
In recent weeks, audio recordings have been released via Twitter on an almost daily basis purporting to be telephone conversations involving Erdogan, senior government members and businessmen that reveal alleged corruption.
“It is difficult to comprehend Twitter’s indifference and its biased and prejudiced stance. We believe that this attitude is damaging to the brand image of the company in question and creates an unfair and inaccurate impression of our country,” the statement from Erdogan’s office said.
Similar measures have been taken on the same grounds in other countries to prevent violations of personal rights and threats to national security, it added.
On the other hand, Turkey’s president on Sunday said the government would soon lift its ban on Twitter. “It is not legally possible to shut down the Internet and such platforms (as Twitter),” Abdullah Gul told reporters in Ankara before leaving for an official visit to the Netherlands. “I believe this problem will be over soon,” he said. “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. Therefore, it will be overcome soon.”