A Turkish court banned access to Twitter and YouTube for failing to remove content related to a deadly hostage crisis last week.
Turkey blocked access to Twitter and YouTube on Monday morning, after they refused a request to remove photographs of an Istanbul prosecutor held at gunpoint by far-left militants, taken hours before the prosecutor was killed in a shootout last week, officials said.
The move come less than one week after Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz died when security forces stormed an office where the extreme leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) had taken him hostage. The blocks have been imposed because images of a deadly siege were being shared via the social networks.
In the siege two gunmen reportedly from a far-left group took a prosecutor hostage at Istanbul central courthouse. All three died in a shootout when police stormed the building during a rescue bid.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said a prosecutor had demanded the block on access to the social media sites because some media organisations had acted "as if they were spreading terrorist propaganda" in sharing the images of the hostage-taking.
"This has to do with the publishing of the prosecutor's picture. What happened in the aftermath (of the prosecutor's killing) is as grim as the incident itself," Kalin said.
"The demand from the prosecutor's office is that this image not be used anywhere in electronic platforms," he told a news conference in Ankara.
“A request has been made to both Twitter and YouTube for the removal of the images and posts but they have not accepted it and no response has been given. That’s why this decision has been taken through a court in Istanbul,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters.
Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz died from his wounds last Tuesday after security forces stormed the office where members of the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) had taken him hostage. His two captors were also killed.
Kiraz, 46, had been leading an investigation into the death last March of Berkin Elvan, 15, who died nine months after falling into a coma after being hit by a police teargas canister during anti-government protests in 2013.
The DHKP-C said on its website that the hostage-taking was in revenge for Elvan, whose death a year ago prompted renewed protests in parts of Istanbul. Activists have accused Turkish authorities of covering up the circumstances of the 15-year-old’s death.
"The wife and children of prosecutor Kiraz have been deeply upset. The images are everywhere", a senior Turkish official told Reuters.
"A request has been made to both Twitter and YouTube for the removal of the images and posts but they have not accepted it and no response has been given", the official said. "That's why this decision has been taken through a court in Istanbul", he concluded.
The DHKP-C is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US.
Millions of social media users have tried to post comments or videos on their favourite platforms but with no success. But the ban has not stopped people from tweeting. Newspapers and individuals alike, have shared guidelines on how to circumvent the ban.
The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey has become the number one trending topic worldwide.
In total, 166 websites which shared the images were blocked by the court order.
YouTube published the text of the court ruling on its website saying an "administration measure" had been enacted by Turkey's telecoms authority. It said it was seeking ways to restore access.
Google said it was working to restore service to the YouTube video-sharing site, which it owns. Twitter also said it was working to restore access for its users.
Facebook said it had complied with a Turkish court order requiring it to restrict access to some content or face a block on its service. A company spokesman said it would appeal the order.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
Turkey temporarily blocked Twitter and YouTube before local elections in March 2014, after audio recordings purportedly showing corruption in then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's inner circle were leaked on their sites. That decision caused a public uproar and drew heavy international criticism.
Turkey filed over five times more content-removal requests to twitter than any other country in the second half of 2014, data published in February by the micro-blogging site showed. Last year, Turkey tightened laws allowing sites to be blocked by the authorities more easily.