Main opposition CHP files criminal complaint against top gov't officials over Twitter restriction

Turkey's main opposition CHP has filed a criminal complaint against authorities over the Information and Communications Technologies Authority's (BTK) decision to limit the bandwidth for social media platforms in the midst of quake rescue efforts, including Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu and Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun.

This collage shows Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu (L) and Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun (R)

Duvar English

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has filed a criminal complaint against top government officials over restricting social media networks on Feb. 8 following two earthquakes that hit the country's southeastern region on Feb. 6.

The party requested that an indictment be prepared to file a public lawsuit against Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) President Ömer Abdullah Karagözoğlu, and Deputy Transport Minister Ömer Fatih Sayan over the charges of "preventing communication, preventing the right to benefit from public services, and abuse of power."

The complaint included that "the limitation prevented access to disaster victims, the establishment of healthy communication between citizens and those performing aid activities, and even caused loss of life," adding that use of social media platforms was highly needed to decrease the effect of the quakes.

Emphasizing the freedom of communication and expression, the CHP criticized the government’s efforts to obstruct the mounting reactions on social media due to the coordination crisis after the quakes.

Access to public services has been crucial for the survival of the victims, and the decision to limit internet access risked many lives, it added. 

Arguing that the public perspective on the issue was very empathetic and the number of provocative posts was minimal, the party stated that “it is unacceptable for the government to ignore the desperate need of communication by the people, only with the concern of protecting its own administrative power.”

The complaint also said the restriction coincided with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s first visit to the quake-hit region, adding that "Hindering the access to the internet aims to reduce the visibility of the criticisms to the government for not taking the necessary precautions after the earthquake.”

Twitter, Tiktok and Ekşisözlük were restricted in Turkey for several hours on Feb. 8 following severe criticisms of the government’s response to the two major earthquakes. Especially Twitter has been a key communication platform for thousands of people to share information and location about their beloved ones under the rubble to help them to be rescued.

Turkey’s General Directorate of Security (EGM) has announced that 37 people were detained, and 10 of them were arrested over allegedly sharing “provocative” social media posts about the two devastating quakes that shook the southeastern region of the country.