An Ankara court has blocked access to a Twitter posting by Nordic Monitor that exposed how the Turkish judiciary in January 2019 authenticated a leaked voice recording that revealed top Turkish officials debating a plot to stage a false flag incident in order to intervene militarily in Syria.
The decision to block Nordic Monitor’s Twitter thread was made by judge Ali Keles of the Ankara 2nd Penal Court of Peace on Jan. 31, 2019, a day after the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a petition to that effect. The judge’s order cited “national security” as justification for his decision, which ordered Twitter to remove or block access to the content.
The article that was referenced on Twitter was titled “Turkish court authenticates audio that revealed spy agency MIT’s false flag in Syria,” which was published on Nordic Monitor’s website in January 2019. The article reveals how a Turkish court confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio clip in which top-ranking Turkish officials are heard discussing the possibility of an intervention in Syria in a false flag operation conducted by Turkish intelligence agency MİT.
In the leaked recording, then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, then-Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and then-Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler are heard discussing military operations in Syria in Davutoğlu’s Foreign Ministry office on March 13, 2013.
Fidan says in the recording: “If needed, I would dispatch four men to Syria. [Then] I would have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war.”
The judicial confirmation of the scandalous content was inadvertently revealed when the public prosecutor tried to pin the leak on a group critical of the government of President Erdoğan as part of espionage charges. The statements in the leak, included in the indictment as allegations, were formally confirmed by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court in a reasoned decision that was announced on Jan. 16, 2019.
The request for the order to block the content was issued by the Directorate of Security Affairs attached to the office of President Erdoğan with document No. 16049 under revised Law No. 5651, also known as the Internet Law. Article 8(A) of the law referenced in the petition refers to the “removal of content and/or blocking of access in circumstances where delay would entail risk.”
The block was enforced on the same day by the Telecommunications and Communications Directorate (Telekomunikasyon Iletişim Başkanlığı, or TİB) without waiting for the judge’s approval. On Jan. 31, TİB submitted the request to the judge with petition No. 34403156-421.02-E8.6824, asking the judge to approve the block, which was granted on the same day.
The Turkish Internet Law was criticized for its shortcomings by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, which said in an opinion on June 15, 2016 that the law was not in line with European norms. “The only measure provided for in Law No. 5651 is the measure of access-blocking/removal of content which is the most severe measure possible on the Internet,” the commission emphasized. It added that “[the] Law does not provide for any other measure, less intrusive than blocking/removal, as for instance, requirement of ‘explanation’ from the interested party [content provider, website owner, etc.], ‘response’, ‘correction’, ‘apology’, ‘content renewal’, ‘access renewal’ etc.”
On Jan. 11, 2010 the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative for freedom of the media published a report on the Internet Law recommending, on the basis of legal and procedural deficiencies identified, that the government should urgently bring Law no. 5651 in line with international standards on freedom of expression or otherwise should consider abolishing the law.
Thousands of social media accounts and websites that are critical of Erdoğan and the government have been blocked by courts that are accused of acting on political orders from the government. The rule of law was effectively suspended in Turkey with the judiciary completely subordinated to the executive branch following a mass purge of more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors, or one-third of the entire judicial staff in Turkey.
According to Twitter’s latest Transparency Report, which covered the July 1, 2017-Dec. 31, 2017 period, Turkey issued 466 court orders for removal requests, while the number for the rest of the world combined was 47. In other words, 91 percent of censorship requests in the form of court judgements came from only one country, Turkey. This shows how the Turkish judiciary has been politicized and subordinated to the executive branch of government.