Turkey invokes law to protect the ‘prophet’
Following reports that Turkish prosecutors were investigating the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet for publishing a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Mohammed comes news that Facebook has complied with a Turkish court order demanding the blocking of a page it said offended the ‘prophet’.
If the social media platform had refused, the court had threatened to block access to the entire site.
Facebook is believed to have around 40 million members in Turkey.
Facebook declined to comment but it does have a policy of blocking access to content within a country if it breaks local law.
Said cybersecurity expert Prof Alan Woodward from Surrey University:
These companies might be US-based but their users are global – they have to respect local traditions and customs.
This report claims that Turkey is one of Facebook’s more vexing territories, at least where censorship is concerned. The country represents a huge potential audience for US tech companies, with its growing population of young digital natives and its rapidly transforming economy.
But according to Facebook’s latest transparency report, which covered the first six months of 2014, Turkey asked Facebook to censor 1,893 pieces of content in that timespan — the second-most of any country.
Many of the requests sprang from local laws that prohibit criticism of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or the President or the Turkish state.
The Cumhuriyet investigation centres on of two journalist – Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya – who produced a four-page Charlie Hebdo pull-out translated into Turkish including cartoons satirising Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in Istanbul.
The edition did not include the controversial front cover of the Prophet Muhammad that has angered Muslims around the world, but a smaller version of the cartoon was included twice inside the newspaper, on pages 5 and 12, to illustrate columns on the subject by Cetinkaya and Karan.
The investigation came as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu condemned the publication of cartoons of the Muslim prophet as an “open provocation”, warning that Turkey would not tolerate insults against Mohammed.
The investigation of the Cumhuriyet appears to have been sparked by a group of 60 demonstrators who staged a protest in front of the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul and lodged a complaint against the newspaper. The zealots ominously chanted:
Ceyda and Hikmet will be brought to account.