US condemns Turkey Twitter ban as ‘21st-century book burning’
Turkish government stands by ban, saying ‘no global company is above the law’
TURKEY’S attempt to ban Twitter has been condemned by the United States as the modern equivalent of burning books. However, the government in Ankara has defended the policy, saying no global company is “above the law”.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan imposed the ban two days ago after Twitter was used to post links to recordings that appear to incriminate him and colleagues in corruption. In one audio clip, a man thought to be Erdogan allegedly tells his son to hide cash from police investigators.
Turkey is holding municipal elections on 30 March.
The Turkish Twitter ban has been ridiculed at home and abroad as being both heavy-handed and ineffectual. Usage of the website has soared since the ban was imposed as Turks have found ways around it; even the president, Abdullah Gul, managed to circumvent the blockage to tweet his disapproval.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted yesterday: “The freedom to speak out and to connect is a fundamental right. The people of Turkey deserve that right restored.”
That followed the publication of a blog post by the State Department which described internet censorship as “21st-century book burning”, adding: “A friend like Turkey has nothing to fear in the free-flow of ideas and even criticism represented by Twitter. Its attempt to block its citizens’ access to social media tools should be reversed.”
But the Turkish government has stood by its ban. Finance minister Mehmet Simsek admitted to the BBC that the decision did not “reflect well” on his government, but said Twitter had refused to comply with court orders to remove content.
"I don't think any global company, whether it's a media company, whether it's an industrial company, it shouldn't see itself [as being] above the law," he said.