Judge blocks access to tweets supporting journalist’s right to freedom of expression

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ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 10: Turkey's newly appointed Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak (L) takes over his new post from Mehmet Simsek (R) with a handover ceremony in Ankara, Turkey on July 10, 2018. Fatih Kurt / Anadolu Agency

A judge for the İstanbul 3rd Penal Court of Peace on Tuesday ruled to block Internet access to the tweets of Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that expressed solidarity with a journalist standing trial for reporting on the tax haven businesses of a Turkish minister.

Newly named Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, previously energy minister, had filed a criminal complaint against Cumhurriyet daily journalist Pelin Ünker for reporting in November 2017 on the offshore businesses of Albayrak and his brother revealed by the Panama Papers, a project of journalists around the world exposing politicians’ business ties with tax havens.

Ünker’s report covered the time that Albayrak and his brother were executives with Çalık Holding in the early 2000s.

In addition to the Albayrak brothers, then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s two sons had offshore companies in tax havens.

A week later, a judge for the İstanbul 4th Penal Court of Peace ordered a block on Internet access to those news stories.

After the revelation, Albayrak also filed criminal complaints against the journalists who reported on the Panama Papers, including Ünker.

The TGS and RSF tweets called on colleagues to attend the first hearing in Ünker’s trial in a show of support for her right to exercise freedom of expression.

“Mr. Minister, congratulations for your new job. … You can’t silence us. See you in court,” the TGS tweeted on Tuesday after the judge’s decision.

Former Energy Minister Albayrak recently was appointed treasury and finance minister by his father-in-law, President Erdoğan.

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