Turkey’s Digital Crackdown on Media, Censors Hundreds of News Sites

Turkey recently started a new digital crackdown on critical and independent media. However, Turkish government has been involved in ‘online security’ policies as far back as 2007 with the law numbered 5651, Law Regulating Digital Publications which has very quickly expanded from its original aim and started targeting political dissent and criticism. The law originally had been designed to punish those involved in child pornography, yet was later expanded to also protect national symbols at the first draft.

sansuresansurOver the years, the law numbered 5651 has experienced several revisions which always made the law even worse than it has been. The original version of the law foresaw a child-protective, mature content filter that would be compulsory for all users and everyone would have to pay extra for this “service” by the state. An estimated number of more than 90.000 websites have been blocked due to this law and many keep getting added on a daily basis. Turkey still is by far the worst country in filing content removal requests from world internet giants such as Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Since the general elections that ended 13-year-governing AK Party’s single-party rule on June 8th, the government has started military operations against own citizens. So far death toll is countable by hundreds, and independent/critical media platforms are being subjected to censorship due to government intentions to control flow of information. Over a hundred news agency and newspaper websites have been closed down by government’s telecommunications authority and decision of Gölbaşı courts in Ankara. The court mandates blocking access to websites do not even mention a reason of the decision. However, due to latest update of the law numbered 5651, based on the article 8, the prime minister may request blocking access to a website due to national security reasons, and there is no further questioning necessary for the court.

The websites that are blocked appear with a line stating that it is a precaution against further escalation of violence; making up a new category of ‘preemptive censorship’ in the thick book of repressing media in the country. Majority of the censored media platforms have been quite active in the regions where military operations are taking place.

Even though the officials of the censored media platforms apply to courts demanding a reason for blocking of access, they return without any answers. Experts state that this proves a violation of the constitutional rights of citizens as well as international agreements, of which Turkey is a part.

Currently thousands of online platforms that have political criticism are officially banned in Turkey, yet many users circumvent the censorship mechanisms, thus reaching the sites. Yet, government’s plans seem to go a step further nowadays. In the past few weeks, when the military operations in the Kurdish dominated southeast have been at its highest, phone lines and internet access as a whole has been shut down and the cities lost communication with the world. When news finally reached out of the city borders, bodies were being counted and photos of ruined districts were revealed as well as short videos of journalists getting harassed by special forces personnel.


(Turkey’s policies regarding internet freedom approach is somewhat similar to this depiction in the video)


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2.899 Libraries Closed Down in Turkey in 2014

Turkish Statistics Institute has declared numbers on reading materials and libraries for the year 2014, and the numbers do not look bright. According to the statistics, 2.899 in Turkey have been closed down in the year 2014 and number of books available in the country has seen a decrease of 10.9% in the same year. This is the first time a statistical data has been made public by the institute regarding the number of libraries in the country, and the report encompasses schools, private schools, tutoring houses that are required to have libraries. Currently there are 27.948 libraries in Turkey for a population of 77 million. Among the nation, only 1.209.948 people have membership for a library.

In Turkey there is one national library, 1.121 public libraries, 559 university libraries, and 27.948 school & education institute libraries, making up to a total of 29.629. Among these libraries, the National Library has increased number of books by 12.8% compared to the previous year, and other materials by 4.8%.

University libraries have reached the number of 559 in 2014, with a 4.9% increased compared to the previous year. Number of books available in university libraries has seen a 7.1% increase reaching 14.5 million books available. There are 33.6% more university library members compared to 2013, which makes a total number of almost 4 million people.

Controversies in Public Library Statistics

One of the 10 Mobile Libraries traveling across Turkey

Public libraries across the country have increased by 0.3% and reached the number 1.121 with an increase of 6.3% more books available, making up the total number of books available 17 million. Membership numbers -although very low- has shown an increase of 17.9% making up total number of library members as 1.2 million. The estimate number of people making use of public libraries has increased by 2.7% and 20 million people are thought to have benefited from public libraries in the year 2014.

Before state’s National Statistical Institute has declared the numbers, the national library association used to declare number of libraries and books available; according to those numbers there used to be 1.367 public libraries across the country in 2004, and by the end of 2012 this number had dropped to 1.112. Yet the numbers declared by state show 1.121 as of 2015 with a supposed increase of 0.3% compared to 2013. In the same manner, the number of library-goers have seem to not changed much compared to 2005 (~20 million then and now), even though there is now about 10% bigger population.

The government between 2001 and 2011 has followed a policy of handing over management of public libraries to local municipalities without extra funding. The municipalities which already had been suffering major economic problems, could not possibly go through with sustaining the libraries thus left the institutions to their destiny. As a result, over a decade 321 libraries had to close down and the number of library-goers did not increase really. Combined with the thousands of books and websites still banned in Turkey, the approach to libraries and public’s access to information seems controversial.

Another significant number to be reminded, connected this topic is the result of another statistical data supplied by the same institution; ratio of regular readers in Turkey is only 0.01% compared to EU’s 21%, and an average Turkish person only spares 6 hours per year for reading, and the budget allocated to books per capita is ~2$ a year.

Istanbul Modern, book installation

Istanbul Modern, book installation

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Suruc Suicide Bomber Trained by ISIS in Syria

The deadly suicide bombing on July 20th in Suruç, Turkey which left 32 young activists dead and dozens of others severely wounded has shaken the country. The moment of explosion was captured on camera, and in the aftermath forensics investigation began. The bomber’s identity has now been confirmed to be the 20 year old Mechanical Engineering student at Adıyaman University, Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz who had disappeared with his brother Yunus Emre Alagoz in 2014.

The two brothers had been on the “wanted list” with high suspicion of terrorist activities since their father had filed a complaint in November 2014. The two brothers allegedly left their hometown Adıyaman for Gaziantep and later for Kilis from where they set out for a training camp in Syria. After the training camp in Syria, they illegally entered back to Turkey and visited their home without getting caught twice. It has also been figured out that the brothers went to Syria at the same time as Orhan Gonder who had carried out a bombing attack in Diyarbakır 2 days before the 2015 general elections at a HDP rally.

23 Suicide Bombers on Wanted Lists


Alagoz, suicide bomber of Suruc

18 families in total in Adıyaman have filed complaints and reported that their children have joined ISIS. A total of 23 names remain in “wanted for possible terrorist activities” list of the Turkish police forces.

The suicide bomber Abdurrahman Alagoz is also reported to having been detained by the police earlier and then released even though his name appeared on the wanted list. HDP member of the parliament for the city of Kars stated that there are several local sources confirming this detention and possible camera footage and there will be an investigation. The Diyarbakır bomber had also been detained and released by the police prior to the bloody attacks.

In another note the city of Adıyaman appears to be known for infamous bombers. The city of 250.000 inhabitants comprises of Turkish, Kurdish, Sunni and Alevi peoples, with high level of conservative life style. In the most recent elections Adıyaman’s 5 representatives have been divided into long-time governing islamist AKP (4) and the pro-Kurdish socialist party HDP (1). The multiethnic and multireligious city has mostly been peaceful until recent years’ “tagging” of Alevi houses.

Islam Tea House: Frequent Address of Bombers

Islam Tea House, now converted to ad-agency (Photo by DHA)

In the city of Adıyaman the Alagoz brothers had opened a tea house named “Islam” which was frequently visited by both Diyarbakır and Suruç bombers. According to Daily Cumhuriyet’s report, the tea house later was closed down after 3 months of service, by the municipality and police for lack of official papers, and now the building is being used as an advertising agency. Witnesses say that usually around 50 people would visit the tea-house and police would surveil on the vicinity 7/24.

When the tea house was first opened, local shop owners filed complaints out of suspicion and the tea house was raided, upon which the owners protested saying “we live in a Muslim majority country, is it illegal to grow beard.”

Neighboring shop owners also stated that during the deadly October 6-7 clashes, tea house stayed closed for several days and it has been reported that the people hanging out there would say they were going to Kobane to join ISIS forces. They have been saying that mostly young people in their 20s would visit the tea house and families of the disappeared children would come to seek a clue regarding whereabouts of their sons.

Main opposition party CHP’s Adıyaman chairperson stated that they will file a report on the disappeared children and ISIS recruitments in the city. CHP representative states that there are rumors of 300 people joining ISIS from the city of Adıyaman.

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“Kill LGBTI Persons” Read the Posters of Young Islamic Defense in Ankara

Istanbul’s LGBTI parade during the ‘Pride Week 2015’ had earlier been declared unlawful by the Istanbul Governor. The reason being pride and Islamic holy month of Ramadan’s coinciding with each other. Governor’s declaration outlawing the pride combined with excessive police violence against the pride-goers, added more flames to already homophobic assessment of the mainstream pro-government media and resulted in boosting of prejudices and homophobia even further in the society.

The reason for the sudden ban was stated to be the parade’s coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan. This statement declares a division between the faithful, moral Muslims, and the member and/or supporter of the LGBTI groups, and defines the two camps as two naturally conflicting identities that cannot coexist. Therefore the statement strengthens the preconceived idea of these two identities as two distinct groups and leads to increased tensions between the two groups. The religious reasoning behind the ban has brought about discussions about the “people of Loot”, a tribe that was wiped out by Allah in Islamic belief, due to their practice of homosexuality.

Only a week after the events that took place in Istanbul –police intervention to pride-, Ankara-based ‘Young Islamic Defense’ group hang posters all over the capital, with the following Hadith passage: “Whoever you find doing the deed of the people of Loot, kill them.”. This open call for massacre and hate crime is directly targeting the members of the LGBTI groups in Turkey, as the poster has a photo from the previous week’s parade in its background.

The group has also posted a manifestation on their website which declares the LGBTI members to be remnants of the Loot tribe that need to be destroyed; therefore encouraging various kinds of hate crimes by justifying them on the grounds of religion.

Even though homosexuality is not conceived as a crime in Turkey, it is not recognized or even referred to, in the laws. In addition, general public awareness of and tolerance towards the LGBTI movement in Turkey is not very high. The state’s own interruption against the movement legitimizes these negative views held by the public and provides a freer environment for hate speeches, while turning the members of LGBTI all the more vulnerable against the actions that may result from this atmosphere charged with hate and intolerance.

Written by,

Gökçe Sandal

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İzlandalı ‘Korsanlar’, Dine Hakaret Yasası’nı kaldırdı

Uluslararası kuruluşların tavsiyesi üzerine gündeme gelen dine hakaret yasaları, İzlanda’da iptal edildi. Önerge Korsan Parti İzlanda’dan geldi.

(Orjinali AGOS’ta)

2006 yılında İsveç’te dijital haklar ve hürriyetler için, telif karşıtı bir hareket olarak doğan ve Türkiye dahil pek çok ülkeye yayılan Korsan Parti’nin bir önergesi, ilk defa ifade hürriyeti alanında bir mecliste kabul edildi.

63 sandalyeli İzlanda meclisinde 3 temsilci ile yer alan Korsan Parti’den vekil Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, 2015 Ocak ayında verdiği bir önerge ile İzlanda Ceza Yasası’ndaki “Dine Hakaret” ile ilgili düzenlemelerin iptalini istemişti. Önergeye aynı zamanda İzlanda başbakanı Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson ve İzlanda Luther Kilisesi Piskoposu Agnes Sigurðardóttir destek vererek, yeni bir yoruma olan ihtiyacı dile getirmişlerdi. Önergede, dine hakaret konusunun ele alınacağı bir komisyon çalışması ve sonrasında mecliste bir oylama talebinde bulunmuştu.

3 vekilin katılmadığı oylamada 60 milletvekilinden yalnızca bir kişi hayır oyu kullandı. Karar için yalnızca siyasi partilerden değil, aynı zamanda sivil toplumdan da büyük destek geldi. İzlanda Etik Hümanist Birliği (Sidmennt), İzlanda Piskoposu, İzlanda Papazlığı, Yayıncılar Birliği, PEN İzlanda, Uluslararası Modern Medya Enstitüsü IMMI, ve ateistler grubu Vantru gibi birçok sivil toplum kuruluşu ve dini kurum da tasarıya desteklerini açıklamıştı.

Badawi’ye destek

İzlanda’da yapılan bu yasa değişikliği hem Charlie Hebdo saldırılarına bir karşı çıkış, hem de Suudi Arabistan’da 1.000 kırbaç ve 10 yıl hapis cezasına çarptırılan liberal blogger Raif Badawi için yürütülen kampanyaya destek olarak görülüyor.

Luther Protestan Hristiyanlığını ‘ulusal din’ olarak ilan etmiş olan İzlanda’da, ülkede faaliyet yürüten herhangi bir dine hakaret eden kişilere 3 aya kadar hapis cezası öngörülüyordu. İfade hürriyeti kapsamında dine, dini geleneklere ve sembollere hakaret ülkede ceza gerektiren bir suç olmamakla birlikte, İzlanda’da nefret söylemi yasası halen bireylerin ya da bir grubun dili, cinsiyeti, ırkı, etnik kökeni, dini inancı ya da inançsızlığı nedeniyle hedef gösterilmesine karşı koruma sağlıyor.

46 ülkede bulunuyor

Bir kısmı yüzyıllar öncesinden gelen “dine hakaret yasaları”, İrlanda, İtalya, Fransa, Almanya, İsviçre, Finlandiya, Danimarka, Yunanistan ve Polonya gibi ülkelerde fiili olarak uygulanmasa da hukuktaki yerini koruyor. Dünyadaki 208 ülkenin 46 tanesinde dine hakaret yasası bulunuyor, bunların 9 tanesinde ceza olarak idam, Türkiye’nin de aralarında bulunduğu 30’dan fazla ülkede ise hapis cezası öngörülüyor.

Bu ülkelerin çoğunda cezalar uygulanmasa da, Avrupa Güvenlik ve İşbirliği Teşkilatı (AGİT), Avrupa Konseyi ve Avrupa Konseyi Venedik Komisyonu gibi uluslararası kuruluşlar, özellikle de Paris’te gerçekleşen kanlı Charlie Hebdo saldırıları sonrası, ifade hürriyeti sınırlarının genişletilmesi için dine hakaret yasalarının kaldırılması çağrısında bulunmaya başlamıştı.

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Avrupa, manzara fotoğraflarını yasaklamayı tartışacak

Belçika’daki yasalar nedeniyle, ‘Atomium’ heykelinin önünde çekilen bir fotoğraf, kamusal alanda paylaşıldığı zaman karartılıyor.

(Orjinali AGOS’ta)

9 Temmuz tarihinde Avrupa Parlamentosu’nda tartışılacak yeni bir düzenleme ile Avrupa çapında manzara ve kültürel eserlerin fotoğraflarının paylaşımına yasak getirilebilir.

Avrupa Parlamentosu’nda Korsan Parti öncülüğünde başlatılan tartışmalar sonucu telif yasaları, dijital haklar ve hürriyetler meseleleri diğer tüm partilerin de gündemine girmiş ve tartışmalara yeni boyutlar kazandırmıştı. Her ne kadar telif konusunda bir özgürleşme henüz tam manasıyla sağlanamamış olsa da, telif savunucuları çıtayı yükseltmeye karar vermişe benziyor. Daha önce, serbest dolaşıma girmesi gereken bilgi, edebi eserler, müzik eserleri gibi birçok alanda telif temsilcilerine karşı başarılı kampanya yürüten fikir hürriyeti savunucularına karşı, şimdi de turizm alanında yeni bir kısıtlama getirilebilir.

Korsan Parti Almanya’dan Avrupa Parlamentosu’na seçilen Julia Reda’nın verdiği yasa teklifiyle Avrupa’da manzara haklarına dair düzenlemelerin standartlaşması ve tüm üye ülkelerde özgürleştirilmesi öngörülüyordu. Bununla birlikte, gelinen son noktada tartışma çok daha başka bir yöne gidiyor gibi görünüyor.

9 Temmuz tarihinde Avrupa Parlamentosu, turistik bölgelerin ve ulusal sembol değeri taşıyan alanların görüntülerinin dijital paylaşımına kısıtlama getirecek yeni bir düzenlemeyi görüşecek. Düzenleme, görüntüsünün telif hakkı alınmış kent ya da doğa alanlarının fotoğraflarının paylaşımına engelliyor ve muhtemel cezalar getiriyor. Turist olarak yola çıkıp, Parthenon, Big Ben ya da Eiffel kulesi gibi dünyaca ünlü yapıların önünde bir fotoğraf çekilip bunu profil fotoğrafı yaptığınızda bu yeni düzenlemeye göre telif yasasını ihlal etmiş olacaksınız.

‘Panorama özgürlüğü”

“Panorama özgürlüğü” ya da “manzara özgürlüğü” denen ağ sayesinde çevrenin tümden çekimi şu an için İngiltere, Almanya, İsveç, İspanya, İrlanda ve Polonya’da serbestken; Norveç ve Finlandiya’da panoramaya heykel gibi bir sanat eseri girmesi durumunda izne tabi. Benzer bir şekilde Avrupa’nın kalanında da sanat eserleri ve koruma altındaki bölgelerin fotoğrafları ticari olmayan hallerde çekimine kısmî olarak izin veriliyor. Fakat yeni görüşülecek olan düzenleme Avrupa çapında bir şemsiye yasanın önünü açarak tüm bu bölgesel farklılıkları birleştirip, kültürel alan ve eserlerin fotoğraflanmasını tümden yasak hale getirebilme riski taşıyor. Böyle bir yasanın geçmesi durumunda Belçika’daki yasalar gereği Atomium’un fotoğrafları her nasıl ki internet üzerinde karartılıyorsa, diğer eser ve manzaralar da karartmaya maruz kalabilir.

Manzara görüntülerinin engellenmesi, ticari amaçla çekilen fotoğraflara karşı alınmış bir önlem olarak öne çıkıyor. Fakat günümüz sosyal medyasında, fotoğraflarınızı yüklediğiniz mecralar sizin haberiniz olmadan fotoğraflarınızı reklam amaçlı olarak kullandığı göz önünde bulundurulursa, bu bir sorun teşkil edebilir. Avrupa’da geçirdiğiniz en keyifli anlarınızda, yıllar boyu hayalini kurduğunuz kentin en sembolik manzarasında çekeceğiniz bir fotoğraf başınıza bu yeni düzenleme sayesinde büyük dertler açabilir.

Mobil iletişim çağında akıllı telefonların, mini kameraların, gözlük kayıt cihazlarının ve diğer teçhizatın çekim yapmasını engellemek her ne kadar imkansız görünüyorsa da, dijital gözetim ve fişleme alanında bir girişime imza atma ihtimali olabilecek bu düzenleme büyük bir risk oluşturuyor. Sansür ve gözetim konusunda eline su dökülmeyecek ülkelerin yönetmeliklerine kıyasla çok daha üstü kapalı ve zararsız görünen bu tür yönetmelikler, bariz yasakları getirmekten imtina eden batı yönetimlerinin de benzer uygulamaları telif ile nasıl yürüttüğünü gösteriyor. Bireysel hak ve hürriyetlerin önündeki engellerin daha da kaldırılması beklenirken Avrupa Parlamentosu’ndan bu tür bir düzenleme geçmesi aynı zamanda “selfie” furyasına da belirli bir oranda ket vurabilir.

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Mobbing: Facing the Bullies [Reunion/ Återträffen, 2013]


The Swedish Palace in Istanbul has a wonderful series of activities varying from network meetings, digital gatherings and film nights. The season finale of the film nights of this year took place on June 4th, 2015 with the screening of the film “Reunion” (Återträffen) [2013] by Anna Odell who brilliantly reveals the society’s power structures, culture of bullying and mobbing.

The invitations were sent out weeks earlier, although I did not personally check the content of the film (mostly, in order not to get any accidental spoilers, and partly because I trusted the quality of the selection). Not knowing the genre, story, plot of the film, I had no idea what to expect when the opening scene showed an empty school corridor. But, given that the title of the film was “Reunion”, I was thinking “It must be taking place at a school’s garden”.

This was not the case; the alumni were to meet at a party organized by one of the graduates, 20 years after graduation. The first fifty minutes of the film was not only brilliantly portraying a person’s psychological situation as a result of heavy bullying throughout adolescence, but also disturbing the viewers in so many aspects. One could feel the burden of similar attitudes which took place in their earlier years, or consider a part of their life where they were the ones who put that kind of pressure on other people. No matter what, it opened the viewers eyes to the past and cause a self-questioning period during the film.

Then came in the silent corridors again. The first part of the film that we saw appears to be a film in the film. One by one we see the actors who portray the actual people who belong to the youth of the protagonist, the director herself. As she keeps inviting the others to watch the film with her, we can see how attitudes change. To begin with the bullies of her past do not appear to be as horrible as they are portrayed in the film inside the film. Yet, in the aftermath it is possible to see how these characters are playing much cooler to avoid the interaction and accusations. The bullying continues till the 30s of the characters and as it is not contested, they continue to disturb the society in their ways.

The film reveals the importance of manner-moderation and the facts on how cruel children can be. In the aftermath of the film, we the viewers at the Swedish Palace have discussed the issue briefly. Then this lively discussion made me think about mobbing in work places. As it is a kind of concept I only came to understand during my military service, it is impossible to unlearn it now. And I regard this phenomenon the same way as I have learnt in the first place: people act like in kindergarten and primary school throughout their lives. Over the last few years, I have come to see how some children are deemed as “unwanted” at school, just like some employees in companies. And the methods of discrimination, casting out and distancing one’s self from that designated person almost never changes. Yet, most people are not as courageous as Anna Odell in facing their childhood bullies and standing up to them.

It has been a good season that ended with a rather disturbing, dramatic film, which has triggered many thoughts and left us with inspiration for the upcoming season with regards to the new projects that we will curate. The ending of the film, shows a significant scene. Anna Odell with her friend sittin on top of a roof and the view keeps distancing from the couple upwards, like the feeling of Odell’s spirit. And the burden remains on the minds and hearts of the bullies in the end. This can have big impact on our societies, as the experimental children that get raised in completely isolated atmospheres might save the parents’ the trouble of dealing with a child who grows up in problematic environment, but creates a bigger burden for the future of that child who will face a culture-shock the moment s/he mingles with the crowds of bullies.

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May Day Battle in Istanbul

Syrian refugee children peeing on the police barricades in Taksim

The city of Istanbul has been turned into a battlefield by the AK Party government once again on the May Day protests. An unnamed curfew has been declared; Prime Minister Davutoğlu stated “there is no prohibition of the May Day, only precautions and security measures by the provincial governors.” Thus he made it clear that officially May Day has not been outlawed -yet! However, streets have been occupied by riot police, roads have been blocked, highways blocked, a planned day-long power cut issued for the central Istanbul, all public transport halted, no cars allowed on streets and all civilians seen around were subjected to arbitrary body-checks from head to toe. The whole city of Istanbul has been treated like an invaded, fallen hero’s motherland, in tied up but conceited.

Taksim Square

Thousands of riot police have been flown to Istanbul from across the country and more than 25.000 riot police (equivalent of national guards) have been deployed to Taksim Square alone, dozens of water cannons, armored shooters, helicopters, and of course dozens of thousands of tear gas canisters have been deployed to and around Taksim. As all the roads leading to Taksim had been occupied by the police so that the workers might not reach Taksim Square and block traffic, even the birds were not flying.

The few civilians who dared to go out of their houses were subjected to several body-check processes in randomly spread check points in every corner of the city. Those who were determined to go to Taksim Square -where 34 citizens had been shot-dead by stated-related agents in 1977- had to walk through many of those check points and get arrested in one of them for ‘participating in an illegal gathering’.

Police without uniforms or ID numbers; reminding people of the Besic of Iran

The city of Istanbul which has much to offer to thousands of tourists every day with its thousands of years old history, also allowed many non-Turks to experience a unique day as the tourists were forced to walk for miles with suitcases rolling around.

The day ended with a total number of detentions around 350, and detentions started early in the morning. Already in the morning, a group from the Communist Party started running from a nearby cafe in Taksim, towards the Republic Monument. They had hid in the cafe whole night, had their breakfast, and just when 20.000 riot police thought they cleared all the square and started spreading the circle, they ran to the monument and waved their flags for a few minutes until they got assaulted and detained. During the detentions, police used excessive force and backwards handcuffs, to which a street dog reacted, reminding people of Loukanikos, the late riot dog of Athens.

Garip of Taksim

Most other groups had designated surrounding neighborhoods to gather and march in bigger groups. Where they would gather in the first place, the police set up massive barricades to force them back. The leaders of the syndicates and unions negotiated with the police, explaining that this is their constitutional right and there are clear court mandates stating that it is illegal to prevent them from celebrating the May Day, police insisted that it would cause risk to national security, public peace and congest traffic if workers were allowed to march to Taksim Square. As the unions declared that they will no longer insist and start to disperse, the police started shooting rubber bullets and gas canisters from all sides without a warning, and pro-government civilians started attacking with clubs and knives to workers. One person got stabbed in his stomach and several others were beaten by pro-government civilians. Later, the perpetrators were left free and the beaten-up victims were detained.

In the meantime, pro-government syndicates were holding an alternative May Day demonstration in the city of Konya, celebrating the good deeds of the government and chanting antisemite and anti-Armenian slogans, calling for unity of Turkish workers against the international plot to overthrow Turkish government. After the alternative May Day demonstration, President Erdoğan gave a speech in Ankara and stated “May Day is my day as well and I do not approve of Taksim as an appropriate location for this. If one wants to have a demonstration or a protest, it has to be at the designated locations that the government decides; if they have enough power they should gather in those designated locations.”

Compared to previous years, this year’s power cut seems to have had a major censorship effect as the number of live-photos and tweets have decreased from the ground zero compared to other years, with the lack of regular connection. In the previous years, when the mobile networks failed to distribute service to the people on the streets, people would remove the password from their household modems and allow free wifi connection to protestors, thus contribute to the free flow of information. As there was no electricity in the districts circulating Taksim, no modem connection was established, and most content was released as in edited form hours after the actual events.


Communist Party members running behind the barricades to Republic Monument



Later, the person beaten up got arrested and not the perpetrators

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PEN calls on governments to safeguard freedom of speech after Charlie Hebdo attacks

On World Press Freedom Day, PEN International (and a long list of global press and free expression organisations – all names available from 30th April) remembers those journalists who were murdered in the January attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices and stands in solidarity with all those journalists and writers who find their right to express themselves freely under threat. Following the Paris assault, government authorities around the world – including those from India, Russia, Senegal, Kenya, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom and others – have responded by either openly clamping down on journalistic free expression, by calling for greater powers of surveillance on us all, or by the over-zealous employment of broad anti-terrorism legislation.
This public statement, signed by some of the world’s leading free expression and press organisations, is not only a public show of support for all journalists and writers whose freedom of expression is under threat, but a forceful reminder that the greatest threat to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists comes from governments, not from attacks by individuals motivated by an ideology.
PEN urges all governments to uphold their international obligations to protect the rights of freedom of expression and information, as an essential component of a free and democratic society.


Joint statement 116 days after Charlie Hebdo

On World Press Freedom Day, 116 days after the attack at the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 11 dead and 12 wounded, we, the undersigned, reaffirm our commitment to defending the right to freedom of expression, even when that right is being used to express views that we and others may find difficult, or even offensive.

The Charlie Hebdo attack – an horrific reminder of the violence many journalists around the world face daily in the course of their work – provoked a series of worrying reactions across the globe.

In January, the office of the German daily Hamburger Morgenpost was firebombed following the paper’s publishing of several Charlie Hebdo images. In Turkey, journalists reported receiving death threats following their re-publishing of images taken from Charlie Hebdo. In February, a gunman apparently inspired by the attack in Paris, opened fire at a free expression event in Copenhagen; his target was a controversial Danish cartoonist who had depicted the prophet Muhammad in his drawings.

But many of the most disturbing reactions – and the most serious threats to freedom of expression – have come from governments.

A Turkish court blocked web pages that had carried images of Charlie Hebdo’s front cover; Russia’s communications watchdog warned six media outlets that publishing religious-themed cartoons ‘could be viewed as a violation of the laws on mass media and extremism’; Egypt’s President Al-Sisi empowered the prime minister to ban any foreign publication deemed offensive to religion; the editor of the Kenyan newspaper The Star was summoned by the government’s media council, asked to explain his ‘unprofessional conduct’ in publishing images of Charlie Hebdo, and his newspaper had to issue a public apology; Senegal banned Charlie Hebdo and other publications that re-printed its images; in India, Mumbai police used laws covering threats to public order and offensive content to block access to websites carrying Charlie Hebdo images. This list is far from exhaustive.

Perhaps the most long-reaching threats to freedom of expression have come from governments ostensibly motivated by security concerns. Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, eleven interior ministers from European Union countries including France, Britain and Germany issued a statement in which they called on Internet service providers to identify and remove online content ‘that aims to incite hatred and terror.’ In the UK, despite the already gross intrusion of the British intelligence services into private data, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that the country should go a step further and ban Internet services that did not give the government the ability to monitor all encrypted chats and calls.

This kind of governmental response is chilling because a particularly insidious threat to our right to free expression is self-censorship. In order to fully exercise the right to freedom of expression, individuals must be able to communicate without fear of intrusion by the State. Under international law, the right to freedom of expression also protects speech that some may find shocking, offensive or disturbing. Importantly, the right to freedom of expression means that those who feel offended also have the right to challenge others through free debate and open discussion, or through peaceful protest.

On World Press Freedom Day, we, the undersigned, call on all Governments to:

  • Uphold their international obligations to protect the rights of freedom of expression and information for all, especially journalists, writers,  and artists and human rights defenders  to publish, write and speak freely;
  • Promote a safe and enabling environment for those who exercise their right to freedom of expression, especially for journalists, artists and human rights defenders to perform their work without interference;
  • Combat impunity for threats and violations aimed at journalists and others threatened for exercising their right to freedom of expression and ensure impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations that bring masterminds behind attacks on journalists to justice and ensure victims and their families have speedy access to appropriate remedies;
  • Repeal legislation which restricts the right to legitimate freedom of expression, especially such as vague and overbroad national security, sedition, blasphemy and criminal defamation laws and other legislation which is used to imprison, harass and silence journalists and others exercising free expression;
  • Promote self-regulation mechanisms for print media;
  • Ensure that the respect of human rights is at the heart of communication surveillance policy. Laws and legal standards governing communication surveillance must therefore be updated, strengthened and brought under legislative and judicial control. Any interference can only be justified if it is clearly defined by law, pursues a legitimate aim and is strictly necessary to the aim pursued.
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Turkish Student Gets Prison Sentence for Sharing Satirical News

Former Governor of Adana, Avni Coş

Zaytung is a Turkish satirical news network. The crew behind Zaytung has been writing funny parody versions of real news, creating absurd-fake stories, mostly generating hilarious satirical pieces for years. With the Turkish media’s fall into government’s hands, mainstream media has been surpassing Zaytung in parody-appearance more and more. Many citizens confuse Zaytung with other kinds of media sources, as the distinction between mainstream media and satirical news is blurring. Most recently, a university student has been sentenced to one year prison sentence for sharing an article from Zaytung, regarding –by then- governor of Adana Province, Avni Coş.

The article in question is from the Republic Day celebrations, showing a photo of the governor with the title “Governor Coş has more force than the President and has declared autonomy in the province he governs.”

Many memes have been produced regarding the Governor’s parade entry

Governor Coş had become known nationally after he had called a protestor citizen “gavat” which means “whoremonger who sells his wife”. Governor Coş now occupies the news agenda with taking the Zaytung news seriously. Governor and the prosecutor who handled the case sued the university student for sharing the satirical news online and freshman student Meral Tutcalı from Anatolian University Sociology Department received one year prison sentence for the crime of “insult to state officer”.

The student commented on the sentence and stated that this is just another step in silencing any kind of dissent and critical citizens by applying laws of pressure and intimidation.

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