Turkey: restrictions on internet access continue to spread across the country

Access to social media sites Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as well as messaging services WhatsApp, Skype and Instagram are reported to be subject to restrictions across the country. While Facebook and Twitter have been subject to similar restrictions in the past, this is the first time nationwide restrictions have been detected on these messaging services, according to monitoring group Turkey Blocks.

The restrictions have already been in place for several days in the south-east of the country, particularly in Diyarbakir, where millions of internet users have been affected. These restrictions were reportedly ordered under Decree Law No.671, passed in the wake of the attempted coup in July 2016, and were introduced following calls for protests against the arrests of two Diyarbakir mayors on 25 October. However, following the detention of the two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) and at least 10 HDP MPs on 3 November, these restrictions are now understood to be affecting internet users across Turkey. Meanwhile, reports suggest that there are widespread protests taking place but, given the restrictions on communications, very little information is currently available.

The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has reportedly acknowledged the restrictions, stating that ‘such methods can be consulted at times from a security angle. After the threat has been thwarted, everything will return to normal.’

These restrictions appear to be yet another attempt to stifle freedom of speech in the wake of the failed coup of July 2016, and thus in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to legitimate freedom of expression. PEN calls upon the government of Turkey to recognise its obligations under the treaty and to ensure that measures introduced under the state of emergency are not used to silence dissent. We are also continuing to call on Turkey’s international partners to encourage the country to rescind or amend the emergency provisions that are incompatible with international human rights obligations.

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