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Pro-gov’t journalist had access blocked to 400 pieces of online content in 2 months: report

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A staunchly pro-government journalist who is also a board member of Turkish state broadcaster TRT has over the past two months had access blocked to almost 400 pieces of online content about her marriage, a report from Free Web Turkey has revealed.

Turkish courts blocked access to 396 pieces of online content between April 15 and June 15 based on complaints filed by Sabah daily columnist Hilal Kaplan, according to Free Web Turkey, a platform fighting against online censorship in Turkey.

Kaplan, who divorced her husband Süheyb Öğüt last year, became a trending topic on Twitter in April in Turkey when her marriage to pro-government columnist for the Milat daily Tevfik Emre Sarı, a friend of Kaplan and her ex-husband, was revealed.

Many criticized Kaplan for being a strong supporter of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) discourse on the importance of family when she divorced her husband and married a friend of the family.

The journalist was also criticized for referring to her current husband as “brother” in one of her earlier tweets.

Kaplan, who generally accompanies President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his official trips abroad, filed various complaints with Turkish courts, demanding an access ban on reports about her marriage. As a result, 396 pieces of online content on various platforms have been banned amid rising online censorship in Turkey.

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

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

Kaplan also drew ire for having supported Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women on the grounds that it weakens family.

President Erdoğan issued a decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, sparking outrage among women’s groups in the country, where femicides and violence against women are serious problems.

Turkey officially withdrew from the convention on July 1, 2021.

Erdoğan and conservative circles in Turkey claimed the treaty had been “hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality” which it said was “incompatible” with Turkey’s “social and family values.”

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