Recep Tayyip Erdogan already regarded Twitter as a “threat to his rule”, after it was used in protests last year, writes Hurriyet columnist Mustafa Akyol.
It grew into a “real menace”, however, when used to circulate “dozens of wiretapped phone conversations between key figures of the governing elites, including Erdogan himself” that pointed to “material manipulation of the media, interference in the judicial process, or mere corruption”.
So he banned it.
All those wiretapped conversations have been uploaded to YouTube, but they went viral mainly thanks to Twitter, which is used by more than 12 million Turks and which really has become a universe of its own. By shutting down Twitter, Erdoğan, thus, wants to block this instrument of the “coup.”
It hasn’t worked. Twitter traffic in Turkey surged, with users tweaking settings to circumvent the shutdown and ridicule the prohibition. Even President Abdullah Gul dismissed the action saying, including via Twitter, naturally, that it was an exercise in futility.
Erdogan had been insistent, however. “No matter what the rest of the world says, we will root out Twitter. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic,” he declared.
Hardly, retorts Emre Uslu in Zaman.
I don’t think shutting down Twitter is a good way of demonstrating Turkey’s power to the rest of the world. It might be a good way of showing how foolish Turkish politicians are and how problematic Turkish democracy is …
He is no longer a leader who is willing to establish good relations with the rest of the world based on democratic values such as human rights, freedom of speech, advanced democracy, etc. Instead, Erdogan, like his old enemies, Kemalists, has realized the “strategic” importance of Turkey and is bargaining Turkey’s position with the rest of the world instead of establishing good relations.
A chorus of censure has echoed inside and outside Turkey – much of it rounded up here by Zaman.
Another Zaman writer, Aydogan Vatandaş, adds: “This is how authoritarian leaders react when they see the possibility that they are no longer wanted.”
And Kadri Gursel in Milliyet newspaper: “Blocking access to Twitter is the work of a government which is losing its self-confidence and strength,” veteran.
For Akyol, the question was what might follow. Erdogan has already issued threats in the direction of YouTube and Facebook.
What is worrying is what might come next. Every government has a right to defend itself, but they range from liberal democracies to dictatorships based on what sort of things they dare to do for that end. We will see how far Erdogan will go.
As for the practicality of it all, NYU professor Ian Bremmer tweeted a persuasive summary on Sunday:
Want to ban Twitter? Helps if you: 1 Have a workable alternative (China) 2 Don't really do email (N Korea) Not going to work in #Turkey
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) March 22, 2014