Turkey is in the midst of an authoritarian crackdown following a failed coup in July — and journalists are finding themselves in the firing line.
Mahir Zeynalov, a Turkish journalist who lives in Washington D.C., is among those targeted. On Monday, he tweeted that the Turkish government is putting pressure on Twitter to close down his account for allegedly “instigating terrorism.”
It’s a move that has been interpreted as a direct assault on the freedom of the press, provoking outrage from free speech advocates.
And now it sounds like Twitter is going to refuse to comply.
Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports the social network is — for now — opting not to suspend Zeynalov’s account. “Twitter has not taken any action on the reported account at this time,” a message sent to the journalist reportedly said. “One of our core values is to defend and respect the user’s voice … Accordingly, we may consider filing petition of objection if we find that there is an appropriate legal basis to do so. If you intend to file an objection to this order in the Turkish courts, please reply immediately to let us know.”
Here’s the Turkish Court order with the full list of Twitter accounts (including @MahirZeynalov) and websites the government wants blocked. pic.twitter.com/RMHWQZNtwS
— Sean D.B. Craig (@sdbcraig) September 26, 2016
Zeynalov also tweeted: “Twitter says it *may* appeal the decision to restrict access to my account. It is highly likely that a Turkish court will uphold the verdict … At this point, we hope that the decision to restrict access will be dropped. If not, at least we expect Twitter not to comply with it.”
But if the decision to target the journalist is upheld, it’s not immediately clear what Twitter will choose to do. The social network has aggressively positioned itself as a defender of free speech — but it also sometimes withholds content on a country-by-country basis in accordance with local laws, an avenue it might pursue with Zeynalov’s account.
It would mean that Turkish users would not see his tweets — but the rest of the world would.
The social network declined Business Insider’s request for comment.
Press advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation immediately rallied to the journalist’s support. “No one’s been better at documenting Turkey’s jailing of journalists than [Mahir Zeylanov],” it tweeted. “Shame on Twitter, if true.”
It added: “Turkey is the world’s leading Twitter censor. First half of 2016, Turkey made 73% of all gov’t takedown requests.”
[Twitter] should not suspend [Mahir Zeylanov]’s account,” rights group Index on Censorship simply tweeted.
Turkey is increasingly hostile towards freedom of speech and political opposition. Following the failed coup, a staggering 35,000 people were arrested in a purge that critics say is targeting the government’s political opponents and threatening freedom of expression — and another 81,000 were fired or suspended, CNN reported.
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