A Turkish court has banned access to the 2021 annual report of the Freedom of Expression Association’s (İFÖD) EngelliWeb initiative, which focuses on the growing internet censorship in Turkey in 2021, according to EngelliWeb.
The report, which was drafted by Professor Yaman Akdeniz from İstanbul Bilgi University’s law faculty and researcher Ozan Güven, was published in October 2022. It said Turkish courts blocked access to 107,706 websites and domains, including 5,436 URLs containing news items, in Turkey in 2021.
According to the report, these restrictions were implemented on the grounds that the content of those websites, domains and URLs included “violations of personal rights,” mostly those of government officials or civil servants, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his son Bilal Erdoğan and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP Tolga Ağar, son of former interior minister and police chief Mehmet Ağar.
EngelliWeb on Thursday announced that access to their 2021 report was restricted by a decision of the Şile Criminal Court of Peace dated May 18, 2023 based on a request by yoga instructor Akif Manaf on the grounds of violation of personal rights.
Derneğimizin (@ifadeorgtr) "Üst Düzey Kamu Şahsiyetlerinin İncinen İtibar, Onur ve Haysiyet Yılı" başlıklı EngelliWeb 2021 raporu, kişilik hakları ihlali gerekçesiyle, Şile SCH'nin 18 Mayıs 2023 tarih ve 2023/272 sayılı kararıyla erişime engellendi. https://t.co/76oxdusS7h pic.twitter.com/aWtl1s1ank
— EngelliWeb (@engelliweb) May 18, 2023
Academic and cyber-rights activist Akdeniz said in a series of tweets that there was “no justification” for the court’s censorship decision.
“It is obvious that the Şile Criminal Court of Peace didn’t read our report. If they had read the 150-page report, they wouldn’t have attempted to restrict it without justification. We will not only file an appeal but also lodge a complaint this time,” Akdeniz added.
Şile Sulh Ceza Hakimliğinin raporumuzu okumadığı net. Okumuş olsaydı, 150 sayfalık raporu gerekçesiz bir şekilde engellemeye kalkışmazdı. Sadece itiraz etmeyeceğiz, bu sefer şikayet de edeceğiz.
— Yaman Akdeniz (@cyberrights) May 18, 2023
Turkish authorities have in the last few years cracked down on websites, social media accounts and posts covering news stories critical of President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, but this has led to accusations that freedom of expression has been curtailed.
Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Erdoğan survived a coup in July 2016.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 165th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.