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Turkey blocks access to 93 news articles about int’l probe involving Erdoğan’s son

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An İstanbul court has ruled to impose an access ban on 93 news articles including a special report by Reuters which earlier this week reported on an international probe that involves the son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Bianet news website reported.

In its special report on Monday, which drew an angry reaction from the Turkish government, Reuters reported that anti-corruption authorities in the United States and Sweden are reviewing a complaint alleging that Dignita Systems AB, the Swedish affiliate of a US company, pledged to pay tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks if Bilal Erdoğan, the son of President Erdoğan, helped it secure a dominant market position in the country.

Although no kickbacks were paid, ultimately, and the company abandoned the project late last year, the complaint provides a “rare insight” into how an investor regarded Bilal Erdoğan as a key person to gain access to President Erdoğan, who won a new five-year mandate on May 28, according to Reuters.

The İstanbul 5th Penal Court of Peace decided on Tuesday to ban access to 93 news articles based on a complaint from Bilal Erdoğan’s lawyer, Ahmet Özel. Özel requested a ban on the relevant news articles, claiming that his client’s personal rights were being violated. The court approved the request.

Turkish courts, which are criticized for acting on orders from Erdoğan and his government, are quick at making rulings to ban online content that includes criticism or accusations against the government.

Freedom House warned in March that thousands of websites are blocked in Turkey where the government frequently blocks websites and orders removal of content that voices opposing views and has a record of blocking access to popular social media networks at times of political unrest or when it anticipates criticism.

Reuters has come under fire in Turkey from pro-government figures due to its report, with Fahrettin Altun, communications director for President Erdoğan, describing it as a “product of disinformation,” and saying that it was, from the perspective of the history of journalism, “both a black mark against and a pitiful example of a 171-year-old media organization publicly humiliating itself.”

In addition, some pro-government media outlets such as the Albayrak Media Group, have unilaterally terminated their contract with the Reuters news agency due to the news piece concerning Bilal Erdoğan.

The allegations come at a sensitive time for bilateral relations between Turkey and Sweden, as Turkey recently blocked Sweden’s attempt to join NATO, accusing the Nordic country of harboring alleged terrorists. The investigation into Dignita’s Turkish efforts further strains already tense relations between the two nations.

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