In the aftermath of a devastating terrorist attack in Ankara, referred to by some commentators as the worst terror attack in Turkish history, the Turkish government has placed a complete ban on broadcasting images of the blast. The government justified its ban on the grounds of preventing widespread panic in the country, and warned that media organizations could face a complete blackout if they don’t comply with the ban.
Its been reported by several Turks that they are unable to access certain social media sites, leading to the conclusion that they have been blocked in the country, even though there has been no statement by the Turkish government that those sites have been blocked. This move comes as no surprise, since Turkey has a long history of censoring social media to suppress the spread of information. Back in April, Turkey temporarily blocked Twitter and YouTube to prevent the spread of an image that was claimed to be used for terrorist propaganda.
Reports from multiple users suggest that both Twitter and Facebook are being blocked by major Turkish Telecom companies such as TTNET, Turkcell, and Vodofone. Avea, another service provider in the country, was reported to still connect to those sites. Some of the tweets complaining about the ban can be seen below.
— Emre Peker (@wsjemre) October 10, 2015
Twitter blocked for Turkcell and Vodofone customers, not Avea it seems. Straw poll of my friends in Turkey post #AnkaraBombing. Am on VPN
— Alev Scott (@AlevScott) October 10, 2015
— Capulcu TurkKick (@TurkKick) October 10, 2015
The attack occurred during a peace rally, which was supported by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). There are believed to be at least 86 dead and 186 wounded. No group has claimed credit for the attack, but the HDP believes their supporters were the main target. The HDP also criticized the police for tear gassing survivors after the attack took place. If the police did act improperly it could explain why the Turkish government is attempting to suppress coverage of the incident. On the other hand it could simply be a misguided attempt to avoid a panic, as the government stated.
Update: One of our readers mentioned that Twitter is not currently blocked for him. I had a little chat to get more information. D-Smart is the person’s service provider, and may be one of the ones that is not blocking content. Unlike others who are using VPNs to circumvent the block, he is able to access Twitter without VPN. He did bring up a good point that when the government blocked Twitter in the past it applied to everyone, not just some telecoms. The situation does seem a bit different this time, but there isn’t enough information to determine exactly what is going on, or why only some companies are blocking the sites.
Is the social media ban actual going to accomplish anything, or is it going to be ineffectual at stopping the spread of coverage of the attack? Leave your comments below.