Turkey: 'Sultan' Erdogan on the warpath against Twitter

Mass arrests,ruling Islamics ponder new law to curb social media

11 June, 17:05

    (by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) - ANKARA, JUNE 11 - From the streets of Turkey, hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters are using social media to bypass the official information clampdown, and nationalist Islamic Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot berate them enough. Since the embattled premier last week went on the verbal offensive, using expressions such as ''gangrene'' and ''menace to society'' to denounce the ''lies'' being propagated via Twitter, at least 47 youths have ended up in handcuffs on charges of sending ''seditious'' messages. In Smyrna, 34 teenagers have been arrested for allegedly ''spreading propaganda and incitement to revolt'' via Twitter: they retweeted a photo of a policeman pulling a girl by the hair and beating her with his truncheon. ''It is now clear that sending such a photo is tantamount to organized crime. This is the meaning of advanced democracy'', leftist daily Sozcu wrote ironically.

    In the southern city of Adana, another 13 have ended up behind bars on the same charges. Moderate daily Taraf published some of the ''incriminating'' messages: ''Meeting in Gundogu Square at 7:30pm'', ''Avoid Losanna Square, the police is there'', ''They are beating us with truncheons''. Turkey is the number one country in the world in terms of jailed journalists, and mass media are either government-controlled or muzzled in other ways. Social networks are therefore proving to be a real menace to Erdogan's system of power, as protesters turned to Twitter and Facebook to exchange information, ask for help, and denounce police brutality: two million messages were sent between 4pm on May 31 and June 1 at 2pm.

    ''None of this would have been possible without the social networks'', said Turkish Twitter founder Sedat Kapanoglu, adding that the wave of arrests in Smyrna and Adana have intimidated a lot of people. ''Tweets have decreased significantly. The resistance movement is still fragile, and we must watch out for disinformation'', he warned. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is busy devising a law to clamp down on social networks, according to Hurriyet daily. ''A tweet filled with lies and slander is much more dangerous than a carbomb'', thundered the AKP mass media chief, Ali Sahin. Social networks contribute to the ongoing ''conspiracy to overthrow the government'', and a law is needed to curb them, Sahin said. Or to ''censor'' them, accused the main opposition whose Social Democratic leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chief of the Republican People's Party (CHP) has called Erdogan ''a dictator''. (ANSAmed).

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