Turkish high court rules Twitter ban illegal, orders access restored

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a rally of the Justice and Development Party ahead of local elections.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a rally of the Justice and Development Party ahead of local elections.

(Ozan Kose / AFP/Getty Images)
<i>This post has been updated, as indicated below.</i>

The Turkish government’s ban on access to the Twitter social media site violates citizens’ right to free expression and access should be immediately restored, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday.

Citing the Turkish Constitution’s unfettered grant of free-speech rights, the court ruled unanimously that the government must end the suspension that was imposed March 20 after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “wipe out Twitter.”

Erdogan and his government have targeted social media with accusations that they are interfering with investigations into corruption at the highest levels in Turkey. Twitter users had posted links to audio and video recordings of incriminating statements by top Turkish government officials and Erdogan associates, including his son, Bilal.

Access to Twitter and YouTube were shut down in Turkey after the companies declined the Erdogan government’s demand that they remove corruption-related tweets and videos.


“Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively,” the high court said in citing Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution.

The Ankara-based court sent a copy of its ruling to the government’s media oversight authority, TIB, and the Transport, Maritime and Communications Ministry with an order to “do what is necessary” to restore access, Turkey’s NTV network reported.

[Updated, 2 p.m. April 2: A lower court last week also ruled the government’s blocking of social media illegal, but the ban has remained in effect with Erdogan’s ministers claiming a 30-day period to prepare a response to the earlier ruling.

Many tech-savvy Turks have already managed to circumvent the impediments imposed on Twitter and YouTube by accessing them via foreign websites. But the official barriers remain in place in Turkey, frustrating normal domestic access.

If authorities continue to flout the court rulings they will face further legal action, Metin Feyzioglu, president of the Turkish Bar Assn., told the daily Hurriyet.]

Twitter: @cjwilliamslat