This article was published on Bloomberg.com on April 6. By Onur Ant, Ali Berat Meric and Constantine Courcoulas.
Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. said they would appeal a Turkish court’s order to remove images of a slain prosecutor that were deemed to abet terrorism, as the government tightened its grip over Internet access. Facebook in the meantime complied with the ruling to escape a blockage of its services in Turkey, the company said in an e-mailed statement Monday. Twitter and Google Inc.’s YouTube also couldn’t be accessed through some providers during the day. The ban on Twitter was lifted late Monday. YouTube said it was working to restore access for users in Turkey as soon as possible. “Turkey is really damaging itself by laws that allows prosecutors to shut down Twitter, Facebook and YouTube,” Carl Bildt, formerly Sweden’s prime minister and a champion of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, said on Twitter. Turkey has passed several laws to strengthen control over the Internet since December 2013, after hundreds of tape recordings allegedly showing political corruption were posted on social media. The EU has has criticized Turkish government efforts to control Internet access as an attempt to curb freedom of speech. The court ordered websites to remove photos of a prosecutor who was taken hostage in a courtroom by leftist militants, then died of wounds sustained during a police raid to free him. Several newspapers and websites published pictures of the prosecutor with a gun to his head, defying a government ban and outraging Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the ruling was demanded by a prosecutor who equated the distribution of images of his slain colleague with terrorist propaganda. He said the court ruling was “born of necessity” and wouldn’t infringe on civil liberties. Turkcell Drops Shares of Turkcell, the country’s largest mobile operator, fell as much as 1.8 percent in Istanbul after the announcement. If access to some social media websites remains barred for a long time, the ban is “definitely going to have an impact on mobile data revenues,” Toygun Onaran, an analyst at Teb Investment, a brokerage in Istanbul, said by phone. “Most of the usage is coming from social websites.” Davutoglu’s ruling AK Party in March pushed through a law that lets the government block websites considered a threat to national security without a court order. The law received parliamentary approval even after Turkey’s top court rescinded similar legislation last year as unconstitutional. Erdogan has yet to approve the new Internet law. National Newspapers A prosecutor has started an investigation against four national newspapers for printing images of the slain prosecutor. Davutoglu called the distribution of the photos “unacceptable.” The social media ban is “another disproportionate response restricting press freedom, free speech,” Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said on Twitter. The court order comes as no surprise to investors, who are more concerned about Turkey’s general political environment than the blockage of Twitter, according to Nicholas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London. “Turkey’s international reputation was tarnished quite some time ago,” Spiro said by e-mail.