A Turkish judge last week blocked access to hundreds of tweets and Twitter accounts that mentioned torture in Turkey or exposed government officials accused of torture, upon the request of the Security General Directorate on behalf of the Interior Ministry. Banned tweets include posts on Nordic Monitor’s Turkish Twitter account that refer to official statements made by defendants in court and a retired military officer confessing on television that he had tortured several suspects. Ironically, some of the Nordic Monitor tweets blocked last week were previously made inaccessible by another Turkish court. It is noteworthy that the public officials mentioned in the banned tweets are military officers, prosecutors and intelligence officers who have nothing to do with the Interior Ministry.Ankara 6th Criminal Judgeship of Peace 2021-11297 Misc.
The ministry applied to the Ankara 6th Penal Court of Peace on October 8 demanding that 361 tweets and 231 Twitter accounts, which it claims are creating a perception of torture in Turkey, be banned. It claimed that posts would disrupt national security and have a negative impact on society, including the sparking of public indignation. In its complaint the ministry stated that these propaganda tweets undermine the morale of officials of the National Intelligence Organization, the Turkish Armed Forces, judicial authorities and police officers.
Within 24 hours of the ministry’s request, the court decided to block access to hundreds of tweets included in the petition. It is unknown how the court examined so many messages in such a short period of time given that many tweets are old and there was no need to make an urgent decision. The court referred to a Constitutional Court decision that it would not be legally correct to block personal Twitter accounts without taking the suspects’ statements; however it, again, ruled to block many Twitter accounts.
🔵 ANKARA'DAKİ İŞKENCE ODALARININ SAVCISI DEŞİFRE OLDU
Nordic Monitor, 15 Temmuz sonrası Ankara'da kurulan gözaltı işkencehanelerinde şüphelilere bizzat işkence yapılması talimatını veren savcının bilgilerine ulaştı: Cumhuriyet Savcısı Mustafa Manga-92537 pic.twitter.com/a8GZk9rQN7
— Nordic Monitor Türkçe (@NordicMonitorTR) August 17, 2020
One of Nordic Monitor’s banned tweets is about prosecutor Mustafa Manga, whose name was revealed during court testimony provided by a gendarme who was subjected to torture and ill-treatment for days when he refused to sign a false statement.
BERKE(11): Özel Kuvvetlerde Zekai Aksakallı ve Oğuz Tozak emir komutasında işkence odaları kuruluyor. Yıllardır birlikte çalıştıkları insanları 15-20 yaşları arasındaki kızları ve eşleri ile tehdit ediyorlar. pic.twitter.com/DUehk0LEZQ
— Nordic Monitor Türkçe (@NordicMonitorTR) August 24, 2020
Another banned Nordic Monitor post describes a female military officer who had to have an abortion after she was raped in police custody. The message was a quotation from a witness, Lt. Abdulvahap Berke, to a panel of judges in an Ankara court.
Hakarete uğradığı iddia edilen Savcı Can Tuncay'ın, İstanbul Emniyeti nezarethanesinde öldürülen öğretmen Gökhan Açıkkollu'nun işkence görmesine izin verdiği ve sorgusunda hazır bulunduğu ortaya çıkmıştı. Hakim Yalçın da 15 Temmuz sonrası skandal kararlara imza atmıştı. pic.twitter.com/KmjthuUWPz
— Nordic Monitor Türkçe (@NordicMonitorTR) June 29, 2020
One of the people whose account was banned is Tülay Açıkkollu, who lost her husband Gökhan Açıkkollu while he was in police custody in 2016. Turkish courts repeatedly ruled that there was no need to investigate his death.
Incidents of torture have increased dramatically in Turkey since an abortive coup in 2016. Incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances have also made a reappearance in the country. The authorities were given free rein to engage in torture and inhuman treatment in detention facilities when an emergency decree-law in 2017 provided legal protection and immunity to officials engaged in those practices, thus allowing torturers to act with impunity.
Given the state of affairs, prosecutors are unable to investigate allegations of torture, or they ignore allegations to avoid losing their jobs. Media outlets in Turkey are also unable to report on allegations of torture due to pressure from the government. For this reason, victims and their relatives share information about torture only through social media.
The fact that social media is gradually turning into a platform where the voices of Turkish dissidents are strong is worrisome to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is no secret that the Erdoğan government plans to build a legal mechanism that censors critical posts and videos before the elections in 2023. Erdoğan had previously announced that a media bill which would impose new restrictions would enter into force in the coming weeks. According to news in the Turkish media, the new bill calls for five years in prison for spreading online disinformation or misinformation. The bill is also intended to set up a directorate to monitor critical content.