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International coalition urges Turkey to cease online censorship on eve of elections

Istanbul, Turkey - Today a coalition of more than 30 local and international rights groups published an open letter to Turkish authorities urging them to respect freedom of expression and refrain from blocking internet access or banning social media platforms in the lead up to the general elections in Turkey this Sunday, November 1st.

The letter reads: “We demand authorities refrain from imposing limitations on access to the Internet or specific online services and remind the government of its duty to protect the right of people in Turkey to freely seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

“As the elections approach, it is critically important for the people of Turkey to enjoy access to the free and open internet, and to be able to seek, receive, and impart information both on- and offline,” said Deniz Aydin, Policy Fellow at Access Now. “Turkish authorities have an obligation to uphold these fundamental human rights.”

The coalition was coordinated by Access Now and includes Alternatif Bilisim, Alternatif Medya Derneği, Ankara Barosu Bilişim Hukukçuları, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Elektrik Mühendisleri Odası, Fight for the Future, Human Rights Watch, Korsan Parti, Linux Kullanıcıları Derneği, and The Tor Project. More than 100,000 websites have been banned by Turkish authorities, and the government appears to have throttled internet usage during events including the tragic bombings in October in the capital city of Ankara.

“Social media platforms and independent news sites are a constant source of information to and from the Turkish people, and carry crucial conversations during elections,“ said Peter Micek, Global Policy & Legal Counsel at Access Now. “Blocking these forums deprives Turkish internet users of their human rights and sets the country back in its journey toward more transparent and responsive governance.”

The letter continues: “Since the passage of the Internet Law of Turkey (Law No. 5651) in 2007, Internet users in Turkey have been subject to various mechanisms of censorship online. Starting in 2013, there has been a dramatic increase in both bans on access to online content and requests to remove content. The Internet Law has been amended via omnibus bills without any room for public debate or criticism, most recently in March 2015.”

Download PDFs of the letter in English and Turkish.

Media contact
Peter Micek, Global Policy & Legal Counsel
peter@accessnow.org, tel: +1-888-414-0100 x709