Turkey has blocked Twitter hours after embattled Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to close it down ahead of a key election. It comes after audio recordings purportedly demonstrating corruption among his associates were posted on the site.
Just before midnight, access to Twitter was blocked, Hurriyet Daily reports.
“We now have a court order. We will wipe out Twitter,” the Islamist-leaning leader told a crowd of adulating supporters during a campaign rally in the northwestern city of Bursa on Thursday, AFP reported.
“I don’t care what the international community says. They will see the Turkish republic‘s strength,” Erdogan added.
According to the Press Advisory of the Prime Ministry, Twitter officials are currently ignoring court rulings demanding they remove some links.
“[In Erdogan’s speech] it is stated that as long as Twitter fails to change its attitude of ignoring court rulings and not doing what is necessary according to the law, technically, there might be no remedy but to block access in order to relief our citizens,” the statement says, as quoted by Hurriyet.
Last month, Turkey passed a controversial law tightening control over the internet, raising major concerns about free speech. It enabled authorities to block access to web pages within hours without a prior court order.
The Communication Technologies Institution (BTK) lists four court rulings on its website as the reasons for the latest block.
Twitter Inc says it is looking into reports that it has been banned in Turkey, Reuters says.
Multiple recordings have recently emerged not just on Twitter, but also on Facebook and YouTube, purportedly showing Erdogan – whose AK Party dominates the parliament – illegally meddling in political, legal, business, and media affairs.
In one recording, he instructs his son to hide tens of millions of euros worth of cash in the house. In another, he tells off an editor of a major newspaper for producing negative coverage. Erdogan has dismissed most of the recordings as “vile fakes” and accused a “robot lobby” of targeting his government through Twitter.
The leader also threatened to shut down YouTube and Facebook – which is used by 35 million Turks – last month.
The run-up to the local elections on March 30 – which will be followed by parliamentary and presidential polls – has been marked by constant rancour, with allegations of fraud adding to the protests over corruption and the suppression of political and civil freedoms from the opposition.
But the AK Party, which has been in power since 2002, is set to maintain its supremacy, if polls are to be believed.