Turkish authorities banned access to more than 40,000 URLs in 2022, with news reports about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family at the top of the list, according to a report from the Free Web Turkey platform.
According to the 2022 Internet Censorship report published on Monday, access to at least 40,536 URLs were blocked in Turkey in 2022 in a sign of growing government censorship.
The banned URLs belonged to domains, social media posts and social media accounts.
The report, drafted by Free Web Turkey project coordinator Ali Safa Korkut, shows that access to 35,066 domains, 3,196 news reports, 2,090 social media posts and 184 social media accounts were blocked between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022.
In the news articles category, reports on allegations of corruption against Erdoğan and his family members were among the most banned, with 1,770 reports, followed by news reports about Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and pro-AKP organizations and businesses, with 517 reports.
Personal rights violations are the leading reason for the access bans imposed on news reports, followed by protection of “national security and the public order.”
After two corruption investigations became public in late 2013 in which Erdoğan’s close circle was implicated, which led to the resignation of four ministers at the time, it has become harder for media outlets in Turkey to report about corruption since Erdoğan cracked down on the police and members of the judiciary who were involved in the investigations.
Turkish authorities have in the last few years imposed restrictions on websites, social media accounts and posts covering news stories critical of Erdoğan and his AKP, which has led to accusations that freedom of expression has been curtailed.
News websites known to be “anti-government” faced the greatest number of access bans, according to the report. Access to 51 such news websites was blocked in 2022 on the pretext of protecting “national security and the public order.”
Pro-Kurdish news outlets such as the Etkin News Agency (ETHA), the Mezopotamya news agency and Jin News were among the anti-government news websites that faced access bans in 2022.
ETHA faced the most access bans among the anti-government news websites, with 21 of its domains banned, which forced the agency to operate under new domains.
A majority of the 35,000 domains blocked last year allegedly had content promoting prostitution, fraud or terrorism.
Microblogging and social networking website Tumblr, manga site Mangago, content delivery platform Bunny CDN and the Turkish edition of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle are in the “others” category which also faced access bans.
The websites of Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition as well as the Turkish edition of US broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) were blocked in Turkey in June 2022 after they refused to comply with an order from the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) in February to obtain broadcasting licenses, which they said would amount to censorship.
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.
The deterioration in internet freedoms in Turkey was also documented in a report published by the US-based Freedom House in early October which showed that internet freedom in Turkey has steadily declined over the past decade, with the country again ranking among the “not free” countries concerning online freedoms.
Turkey has a score of 30 in a 100-point index with scores being based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free) in the Freedom House’s 2023 Freedom on the Net report.