A court order blocking Turkish news website Bianet, known for its human rights coverage, was lifted after authorities claimed they had accidentally sought a court order blocking it.
Bianet released a statement on Wednesday with the signature of its lawyer, Meric Eyuboglu, saying the request by Turkey’s Gendarmerie General Command to block access to Bianet locally in Turkey was issued “by mistake” and was reversed a day after it was instituted.
Bianet, a Sweden-funded Turkish news website focusing on human rights, had been blocked, together with 135 other web links, on July 16 at the request of a military police force on national security grounds.
A day later, the website discovered the blocking decision had been reversed, with the ban against 135 other web addresses still standing. The blocked 135 web addresses include social media accounts and YouTube videos linked to leftist groups.
The Ankara 3rd Peace Court ordered the blocking of 136 Internet sources, including Bianet, under Article 8/A of the Internet Act relating to grounds of national security.
The very next day on July 17, the gendarmerie filed a motion to the court. which then revoked its blocking decision on the same day.
Despite lifting the ban on the website, Eyuboglu said the court’s order was an example of “massive censorship.”
“Of course, the removal of this unjust, baseless and bad decision for Bianet does not remove the major and unjust intervention against freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and right to information. This decision should be removed for all the addresses,” the lawyer said in the statement.
Eyuboglu claimed that the court had questioned neither the gendarmerie’s initial request to block the 136 web links nor the request to remove Bianet from the ban list.
“There is no reasoning in the gendarmerie petition, there is no reasoning in the court ruling. The court banning access due to one application is a very problematic situation for press freedom and freedom of expression,” she said.
A number of human rights groups and press associations on Tuesday condemned the ruling, arguing that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which shut down many critical media institutions through emergency decrees after a failed coup attempt in July 2016, continues to do the same by way of court rulings.
“We call on the Turkish authorities to stop their ongoing campaign of censorship of the country’s independent media and allow people to get their news from wherever they wish,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, program director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based watchdog.
Following the AKP’s move of shutting down traditional media outlets and the jailing dozens of journalists came, critics say the online world – websites, blogs, social media, etc. – has emerged as the center of opposition in Turkey.
“Censorship of websites and online social media has reached unprecedented levels and the authorities are now trying to bring online video services under control,” declared Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based international media rights group.
Bianet is a news portal affiliated with the IPS Communication Foundation, which was established in 1993 in Istanbul with the aim of supporting and implementing programs in the fields of communication and development.