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In Turkey, an ini­tial “bun­dle” of laws relat­ed to cen­sor­ship has just been removed from dis­cus­sion. This plan, ini­ti­at­ed on June 24 2020, dealt with food stuffs, agri­cul­ture and forests, and was strong­ly con­test­ed and denounced by 61 asso­ci­a­tions and orga­ni­za­tions of civ­il soci­ety, a denun­ci­a­tion sup­port­ed by a peti­tion.

News laws, new censorship!

This new law stip­u­lat­ed: “all writ­ten, visu­al and sound pub­li­ca­tions con­trary to real­i­ty that would not enter in the frame­work of com­mer­cial adver­tis­ing, dis­sem­i­nat­ed through dig­i­tal tools and that would cre­ate fear and dis­trust in con­sumers con­cern­ing food, thus affect­ing con­sumer habits, shall be con­sid­ered as “mis­lead­ing pub­li­ca­tions” and their authors liable to a penal­ty rang­ing from 20 to 50 thou­sand Turk­ish lira.”

Thus, this text ren­dered the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of any opin­ion, infor­ma­tion, warn­ing, research impos­si­ble as they per­tained to addi­tives, con­ser­va­tion agents or genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied sub­stances, advis­ing the pub­lic of dan­gers linked to unwhole­some prod­ucts. 1

These types of laws cen­sor­ing infor­ma­tion destroy all free­dom of expres­sion for authors, jour­nal­ists, sci­ence work­ers and med­ical doc­tors of good will, express­ing crit­i­cism. Whis­tle blow­ers are criminalized.

The with­drawl of this bun­dle of laws is but a small bat­tle in the big­ger one against censorship.

Muzzling all media…

If we speak of “only a small bat­tle” it is because not only the food sec­tor is tar­get­ed by uneth­i­cal laws autho­riz­ing and legit­imiz­ing cen­sor­ship. This muz­zling is spread­ing to var­i­ous areas of infor­ma­tion and under dif­fer­ent guises.

The Turk­ish regime is expend­ing colos­sal efforts to ren­der inaudi­ble all and every voice raised against it. The press, social networks…

Although he him­self, as well as his Par­ty the AKP, mem­bers of gov­ern­ment, his rel­a­tives and his “aktrolls2use and abuse social net­works, Erdoğan states from one speech to the next that he “will put the net­works in order”. This, ever since the Gezi revolt in 2013 dur­ing which social net­works played a cru­cial role in dis­sem­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion and orga­niz­ing protesters.

In a visio­con­fer­ence from Ankara in mid-July 2020, Erdoğan said the fol­low­ing: “Do you under­stand now why we are opposed to YouTube, Net­flix [pro­nounced ‘nech­flis’], Twit­ter …those kinds of social net­works? It is so as to make those immoral­i­ties dis­ap­pear. My cit­i­zens, those peo­ple have no morals. As Akif3said: ‘The most mon­strous col­lapse is that of moral­i­ty. For then, nei­ther the Nation can be saved, nor can free­dom’. We are the grand­chil­dren and the chil­dren of a Nation of emi­nent moral­i­ty, with emi­nent civ­i­liza­tion­al val­ues. And we do not want to live to see the progress of those who do not deserve this Nation. The top­ic on which we must focus here is the fol­low­ing: how is it that the media and par­tic­u­lar­ly the labels of social net­works have become instru­ments for this rot­ten­ness. It is imper­a­tive to put things in order in those media where lies, calum­ny, attacks on indi­vid­ual rights, attacks against rep­u­ta­tions have become a scourge. These media are not suit­able in this Nation, this coun­try. We want to bring them up as quick­ly as pos­si­ble in front of our Par­lia­ment, my dear cit­i­zens, for the total sup­pres­sion and con­trol of these media.” 
[Faith­ful trans­la­tion of his words, with no redacting…]

Of course, both for tech­ni­cal rea­sons and for com­mer­cial ones, the total elim­i­na­tion of media and social net­works is unre­al­is­tic. They are hard to con­trol. Turkey has nei­ther the tech­ni­cal nor the struc­tur­al means of a Chi­na who man­ages to do so… But Erdoğan’s wish has been real­ized in a ver­sion bet­ter-adapt­ed to this coun­try: On Octo­ber 1st, a new law came into effect in Turkey rein­forc­ing gov­ern­men­tal con­trol over social networks.

The Turk­ish regime requires that Face­book and Twit­ter both have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Turkey and obey with­in 48 hours deci­sions by Turk­ish tri­bunals demand­ing the with­draw­al of spe­cif­ic con­tents. In the case of a lack of com­pli­ance the law threat­ens the plat­form of a reduc­tion in its band­width and fines of up to 4,3 mil­lion euros. More­o­ev­er, the law calls on Face­book and Twit­ter to stock in-coun­try the data on users locat­ed in Turkey. In ear­ly Octo­ber, Face­book reject­ed the Turk­ish oblig­a­tion to name rep­re­sen­ta­tives with­in the country.

In this arti­cle, we will not deal with the dele­tions and sus­pen­sions of user accounts, already zeal­ous­ly pur­sued by the mod­er­a­tors of these plat­form, often fol­low­ing mas­sive reporting.

Publication prohibited”

Instead, let’s talk about “pub­li­ca­tion pro­hi­bi­tions” of infor­ma­tion, a pecu­liar “con­cept”, and a super means of cen­sor­ship and oppression…

This pro­hi­bi­tion can be applied on a top­ic by the Turk­ish Supe­ri­or Coun­cil on Audio­vi­su­als (RTÜK), respon­si­ble for the con­trol and cen­sor­ship of media. But it can also be decreed by a court deci­sion in a larg­er ver­sion applic­a­ble to social net­works and all oth­er inter­net-depen­dent devices, thus pro­hibit­ing every­one to men­tion the top­ic in ques­tion. Even though these deci­sions are in vio­la­tion of cer­tains arti­cles of the law applic­a­ble to the press, they are used abu­sive­ly and regularly…

To sum­ma­rize, these pub­li­ca­tion pro­hi­bi­tions are declared at every turn as soon as “sen­si­tive top­ics” appear those in pow­er would pre­fer to sup­press, or to see treat­ed “oth­er­wise” by media under gov­ern­men­tal orders. Of course, jour­nal­ists doing such report­ing and inform­ing pub­lic opin­ion are arrest­ed, and social net­work users who take the risk of shar­ing their opin­ions or of relay­ing their tweets, are prosecuted.

There are count­less exam­ples of this – the attacks in Rey­han­lı in 2013, or of Suruç and Ankara in 2015, attrib­uted to Isis…For these, even if the open­ing of an inquest was a log­i­cal deci­sion, this would require it be con­duct­ed in a demo­c­ra­t­ic con­text insur­ing func­tion­al and inde­pen­dent jus­tice… Which is not the case in Turkey.

Cen­sor­ship imposed dur­ing the inva­sion of Afrin, then that of North­ern Syr­ia, save for the ver­sions pub­lished in offi­cial media.

Anoth­er recent exam­ple: last Sep­tem­ber, two Kur­dish men were hos­pi­tal­ized in seri­ous con­di­tion after hav­ing been tor­tured and “thrown” from an army heli­copter. One of the men died. This infor­ma­tion raised tremen­dous indig­na­tion and a lot of reac­tions on social net­works, fol­lowed by dec­la­ra­tions denounc­ing these bar­barous meth­ods. But… the four jour­nal­ists, Adnan Bilen (MA), Cemil Ugur (MA), Sehrib­an Abi (Jin­news) and Nazan Salaqui who led the inves­ti­ga­tions were accused of “ter­ror­ism” for “hav­ing informed on social net­works of events con­trary to the inter­ests of the State.” They are now in prison

Mean­while, media at the ser­vice of those in pow­er car­pet their head­lines with the names of intel­lec­tu­als, of defendors of rights, of jour­nal­ists declared to be “ter­ror­ists, sold-out, trai­tors or yet again spies paid by ene­my for­eign coun­tries” and dis­play them as full-sized tar­gets, at the mer­cy of any zeal­ous indi­vid­ual giv­en to vio­lence, when they are not direct­ly caught in the vise of the judi­cial mech­a­nism. Express­ing crit­i­cism is crim­i­nal­ized, it is wor­thy of prison or exile…

But the refusal to obey, to self-cen­sor­ship or silence can go even fur­ther… Anoth­er exam­ple is that of Can Dün­dar, the jour­nal­ist who exposed the exis­tence of trucks loaded with weapons for Isis. The jour­nal­ist is now in exile in Ger­many. He is pros­e­cut­ed for “trea­son and spy­ing” for he would have “revealed State secrets with the inten­tion to harm”. The accu­sa­tion even appears like a recog­ni­tion of this aid, qual­i­fy­ing it of being a “State secret”. A tri­bunal in Istan­bul declared him as a “fugi­tive” last Octo­ber 7, and ordered that his belong­ings be seized

In Turkey, whistle­blow­ers are kind­ly invit­ed to be silent, peo­ple to low­er their heads and to con­tin­ue sur­viv­ing in silence, while main­tain­ing their con­sump­tion of goods wher­ev­er possible…

Prohibition to inform” on the murder of Samuel Paty, except as propaganda!

While we were prepar­ing this arti­cle, anoth­er “pub­li­ca­tion pro­hi­bi­tion” appeared, con­cern­ing the atro­cious mur­der in France by an Islamist of the teacher Samuel Paty. While the media con­trolled by the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ue com­mu­ni­cat­ing nau­se­at­ing false infor­ma­tion, clear­ly ori­ent­ed in an effort to mod­i­fy pub­lic opin­ion… As appears below:


(1) Akit / Macron’s devious game against Muslims : he has French intelligence targeting Muslims.
In the inquest on the assassination of a teacher in France, the number of persons in custody has risen to 9. Macron, the President of France is playing bloody theatrics in order to legitimize the “struggle against Islam”, following the attack which, according to allegations, was perpetrated by French intelligence, taking Islam and Muslims as their targets.
(2) Akit/ Discrimination among the students
We learn that during his lesson to primary grade pupils, the teacher showed caricatures presenting nauseating images of Prophet Mohammad which attracted reactions of parents of some of the students. It is said that the teacher demonstrated a discriminatory attitude, asking Muslim students to raise their hands and step forward; he had already been signaled to his superiors as a pedo-pornographer. The inquest is in the hands of the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s bureau. In the pursuit of this inquest, a video is being examined in which one of the parents qualifies the actions of the teacher as inappropriate and denounces him to his superiors. Moreover, President Macron while visiting the location of the event, qualified it as “an Islamist terrorist attack”.
(3) The same filthy comments cut and pasted on another “newspaper” among many others…


One can­not fail notic­ing how this press orches­trates the filth served up as infor­ma­tion by the “Broth­ers”.

Who holds the censorship leash?

Thus, we find our­selves faced with a way of func­tion­ing that main­tains the illu­sion of a State with it laws, its jus­tice, its coun­ter­pow­ers. When looked at more close­ly, this demo­c­ra­t­ic screen hides the real­i­ty of an oli­garchi­cal pow­er act­ing as a car­tel.

In mil­i­tary lan­guage “he who holds the heights holds the low grounds”. Thus, cen­sor­ship remains legit­imized by a jus­tice under orders, and orches­trat­ed direct­ly by a total­i­tar­i­an pow­er launch­ing fat­was when nec­es­sary, using as a res­o­nance cham­ber a par­lia­ment reduced to the role of a rub­ber-stamp where Par­ties play at oppos­ing one anoth­er in order to main­tain the demo­c­ra­t­ic illu­sion. What is already the case in a num­ber of so-called par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cies is pushed here beyond the point of car­i­ca­ture. Thus the “press” sub­mit­ted to cen­sor­ship could also appear as a still-exist­ing coun­ter­pow­er, when in fact it has been reduced to self-cen­sor­ship, while the reign­ing oli­garchy dis­plays the colos­sal means of its propaganda.

There is noth­ing new in writ­ing that cen­sor­ship is the rule in Turkey. Even less in hav­ing to con­stant­ly reit­er­ate that “jour­nal­ism is not a crime”, when faced by waves of arrests or intim­i­da­tions. But it struck us as nec­es­sary to pick apart a small part of the per­verse func­tion­ing of this censorship.

Final­ly, con­cern­ing social net­works, a reminder that even though the GAFA are not the phil­an­thropists of democ­ra­cy, access to them must be pre­served where such access is still free, in order to main­tain the role of coun­ter­pow­ers and whistle­blow­ers. They are noth­ing but the dig­i­tal tools need­ed to pre­serve an ago­ra against cen­sor­ship in an ocean of “com­mu­ni­ca­tion”. But one need only take note of how, every­where, exist­ing total­i­tar­i­anisms, like those cur­rent­ly in ges­ta­tion, do every­thing to con­trol these net­works to under­stand we must refuse the leash and the extend­ed collar.


Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.