Turkey has censored YouTube due to an image of a well-known Istanbul prosecutor who was held hostage by far-Left militants.
The photo consists of a militant wearing a beret, with his face covered by a red scarf, pointing his gun at the prosecutor’s head.
As a result of the hostage crisis that was ended on Tuesday by Turkish Special Forces, two militants and the prosecutor were killed. Apparently, however, that photo, not the wisdom of the raid, started the debate.
The image went almost viral. Various Turkish newspapers published it, and those who did, were barred from covering the prosecutor’s funeral. Since that was not enough, the Turkish government decided to block YouTube and Twitter because these social media channels failed to remove the photo.
According to Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman of Turkey’s president, “Media groups that should be acting responsibly in publishing these photos are almost doing the propaganda of a terrorist organization. And continuing to do so despite all warnings and criticisms is unacceptable.”
He explained that the photo was not only proclaiming violation of freedom, but it is also unethical for the prosecutor’s family and children.
And, although Twitter agreed to comply with the rules and removed the photo of the prosecutor and was, therefore, uncensored, YouTube did not, which is why it is still blocked.
Hurriyet, one of the Turkish newspapers whose reporter was barred from covering the prosecutor’s funeral, wrote in an editorial, “We think that a democracy with the freedom of the press cannot accommodate a prime minister allocating himself the authority to punish newspapers, correspondents, photojournalists and cameramen or be busy with the process of accreditation. This is more reminiscent of practices particular to third world regimes.”
There is no doubt the image of the prosecutor is inappropriate, but instead of aggressively censoring social media and barring reporters from covering the funeral, there could have been a discussion on the ethics of the publication. Or, as one reporter of a daily Turkish newspaper and a former journalism professor said, the photo could have been published with the prosecutor’s face blurred to show respect of him and his family “because he was confined against his will.”
The more Turkey is trying to censor the Internet, however, the more distant it becomes from joining the European Union.
NYTimes published a Twitter message by Carl Bildt, a former foreign minister and prime minister of Sweden, stating that “Turkey is really damaging itself by laws that allow prosecutors to shut down Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Simply stupid.”