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After the Ankara 3rd Penal Court of Peace has imposed an access block on 136 internet addresses including bianet, international organizations Reporters Without Borders (RSF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Amnesty International and International Press Institute have released statements and denounced the access block on bianet.
The statement released by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regarding the access block imposed on bianet is as follows in brief:
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) unreservedly condemns the persecution of its Turkish partner, the news and information website bianet, which is about to be blocked. The Turkish authorities must rescind this arbitrary and draconian decision at once, RSF said.
“Censorship seems to have finally caught up with this leading source of information about human right violations in Turkey, as its blocking is reportedly imminent under a three-week-old court decision.
“The order says they ‘threaten national security’ but provides no explanation and cites no content, simply mentioning a police investigation.
“Other media outlets, including the left-wing news agency ETHA, are among those targeted.
“‘Describing bianet as a threat to national security is the height of absurdity,’ said Erol Önderoğlu, RSF’s representative in Turkey. ‘Ever since its creation, this site has promoted peace journalism.
“We strongly condemn this latest act of arbitrary censorship, which contradicts promises recently made at the highest level, and we urge the authorities to rescind this draconian decision without delay.’
“President Erdoğan said at the end of May that, under a series of reforms that had just been submitted to parliament, it would no longer be possible to block an entire website because of a single item.
“bianet has been a trailblazer in human rights journalism ever since its creation in 1997, specializing in most sensitive subjects, including Kurdish issues, freedom of expression, violence against women and LGBTI rights.
“Its publications include quarterly reports by RSF’s Önderoğlu on persecution of the media in Turkey. And it has developed a training centre to promote the best journalistic practices throughout the country.
“Turkey’s ‘peace judges’, created in 2014 as part of the government’s efforts to rein in the judiciary, have been criticized by the CoE for issuing poorly supported decisions against which the possibilities of recourse are limited.
“bianet has successfully appealed twice to Turkey’s constitutional court against the blocking of individual articles, obtaining favourable rulings in December 2018 and April 2019.
“But this time it is the entire site that is being blocked – all of the approximately 200,000 articles that have been posted in the past 22 years.
“The already worrying situation of Turkey’s media has become critical since an abortive coup in July 2016.
“Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any effective form of recourse, mass trials are being held and Turkey holds the world record for the number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.”
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has also stated:
“The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) calls on Turkish authorities to cancel the outrageous decision of Ankara 3rd Peace Judge to block access to 136 websites and social media accounts.
“Ankara 3rd Peace Judge Hasan Demirtas decided on 16 July to block access to 136 internet resources, including bianet and Gazete Fersude news portals, on the basis of ‘national security’ (article 8/A of İnternet Law).
“The ban targets 15 websites and dozens of social media accounts (on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest).
“The court’s unjustified ruling prevents access to at least 200,000 news stories in bianet, which has been broadcasting since November 2000.
“The court decision was unanimously condemned today as an arbitrary and unlawful decision by the EFJ affiliates in Turkey (TGS, TGC, DISK Basin-Is).
“‘This massive act of censorship is totally arbitrary and unjustified. We demand the immediate review of this outrageous judicial decision’, said the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.”
Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner Milena Buyum has also said,
“This scandalous decision is the latest full-frontal assault on the right to freedom of expression in Turkey and signals a deepening of an already restrictive state of censorship.
“In a single ruling, the court in Ankara has blocked more than one hundred web addresses without any justification as to why this is necessary or proportionate. One of those targeted is bianet, one of the few remaining independent news portals left in Turkey, which has continued fearlessly reporting on human rights abuses throughout the media crackdown.”
“This decision should be overturned and the Turkish authorities must end their suffocating crackdown on the ever shrinking number of independent voices”, Buyum has concluded her statement.
In the statement of the organization, bianet has also been described as “one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Turkey which has also continued reporting on human rights violations”.
The International Press Institute (IPI) has also stated the following in brief:
“The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the court order blocking access to a number of websites and URLs including news sites and their social media accounts, as well as the social media accounts of civil society movements, politicians and others.
“Among the blocked sites is bianet.org, a part of the IPS Communications Foundation, which has been publishing since 2000. Monitoring and reporting on press freedom violations and developments for a long time, bianet was publishing periodic Media Monitoring Reports.
“IPI spoke to IPS Communications Foundation Executive Board Chair Nadire Mater following the court order. Mater said that bianet.org is not the first nor the only website being shut down.
“‘At bianet, we kept fighting until now for press freedom issues in Turkey, with this type of solidarity we will continue to do so,’ said Mater. She also said that ‘News is not something that can be prevented.’
“As bianet’s legal team is making the objections to this order, Mater said that there was no official response from authorities so far and added: “The latest Judicial Reform Strategy was proposing regulations to such blocks to access websites, that might positively change it. But the reforms were suspended in the last minute [due to Parliament going on recess].”
Mater said that they will continue their workshops and other activities for journalists as before.
“IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad condemned the court order and stressed the discrepancy between this decision and Judicial Reform Strategy published in last May.
“‘On the one hand the government is preparing to present a Judicial Reforms Package and on the other hand it is stifling independent media in the country”, Prasad said. “The latest order is another blow to democracy and a step towards silencing independent online media denying people of Turkey their right to information.’ ‘bianet should continue to freely disseminate its independent and pluralistic news”, he said.
“IPI urges Turkish authorities for an immediate withdrawal of the order. This decision is yet another violation of right to objective information and press freedom, which has been constrained for a very long time in Turkey.” (DB/SD)