1 – 31 March and aftermath – Two members of the far-left group DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front) took prosecutor Mehmet Kıraz hostage, issuing a series of demands related to the Berkin Elvan case that Kıraz was investigating. (Elvan was the 14-year-old boy who was shot in the face with a gas canister by an as yet unidentified police officer during the Gezi Park protests and who died in a coma 9 months later.) After 6 hours of negotiations, a confrontation took place and both DHKP/C members and Kıraz were killed. During and after the crisis the Turkish government issued a media blackout regarding reporting on it. Though both pro-government and non-government-aligned outlets (the later coming from a variety of ideological perspectives but distinguished by the fact that they sometimes criticize the government) had carried images of the hostage crisis, the following day many of the non-aligned media were banned from attending Kıraz’s funeral and subsequently had charges filed against them for “propagandizing on behalf of a terrorist organization.” Some of these media organizations, including the Doğan Group, the country’s largest, have objected to the ban and charges, though Doğan also took the unusual step of engaging in self-criticism, an action that has been critiqued by some. This ban on images of the crisis even extended to some degree to foreigners, as an Egyptian-British blogger had a tweet regarding the incident blocked based on the ruling of a Turkish court. In the days to follow it came out that the hostage takers did have family ties to the DHKP/C and that Kıraz had been actively investigating the Elvan case, perhaps even moving towards finding the police officer(s) involved.
On the same day, the entire country suffered a massive blackout that has yet to be fully explained, though some hypotheses have been put forth. Twitter user Fuat Avni has received attention for tweets suggesting that the blackout was a trial run for a series of similar blackouts that will take place during the 7 June election, as well as tweets from January, noting that Turkey’s intelligence agency (MIT) had infiltrated DHKP/C and planned to reactive the group.
On 1 April, two assailants attacked a police station in Istanbul and one was killed while, elsewhere in the city, an armed man broke into the AK-Party headquarters and hung a modified Turkish flag. Both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu have attempted to turn the series of incidents to political advantage, Erdoğan noting that Turkey needs to build 3 rather than 2 nuclear power plants and saying that the police, who have recently been granted unprecedented powers, should take over for private security firms, and Davutoğlu promising that no unauthorized street protests would be permitted and also suggesting that the DHKP/C attack could be linked to foreign powers.
And, on April 6th, Turkey blocked access country-wide to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to prevent the hostage photos, as reported by Hürriyet Daily News:
Turkish authorities have blocked access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook over the publication of photos published on the three social media platforms showing a prosecutor who was taken hostage by militants in Istanbul last week. Tayfun Acarer, the head of the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), told daily Hürriyet that the ban on Facebook had been lifted after it rapidly complied with the court ruling.
2 – Erdoğan insults roundup – Turkey has charted new territory in the crackdown on social media by giving a journalist a suspended prison sentence for “liking” an anti-Erdoğan post on Facebook.
Radikal reports that a trial has been opened against ÖDP Tokat Regional Authority Önder Konuk, who was taken into custody because he called Erdoğan “lan” (something close to “dude”) in an angry tweet after the death of Özgecan Aslan. His tweet, which was only visible to friends, translates to, “Why don’t you declare a time of mourning dude!” He explained the tweet by saying he was angry to see Turkey declare a day of mourning for the death of the Saudi King, but not for Aslan. He may face up to 7 years in prison. Konuk is just one among many who have been charged for angry Tweets regarding Erdoğan’s actions in the wake of Aslan’s death.
The latest cover of the satirical cartoon magazine Penguen references the recent prison sentence against two of its cartoonists for insulting Erdoğan, and notes “we will continue to draw.”
Finally, as Today’s Zaman reports:
A 17-year-old high school student in the province of Konya is set to appear before a court in June and will face between one and four years of prison after he was charged with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ; the boy is reportedly a friend of a 16- year-old who was recently arrested on the same charge.
3 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman both issued reports on a “Twitter battle” that took place between AK-Party supporters and Gülen supporters in recent days. According to Hürriyet Daily News:
Thousands of social media users who either supported or opposed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) engaged in a “spamming” war, which started April 3 and continued for at least two days, leading Twitter to suspend the accounts of many users who had hundreds of thousands of followers.
4 – The Kabataş Gezi Park story may get less press in the future, as Hürriyet Daily News notes:
A Turkish court banned accesss to stories ran by eight websites on Zehra Develioğlu , a headscarved woman who claimed in June 2013 that she and her baby were the victims of an assault by a group of people in the Kabataş district of Istanbul during the Gezi Park protests, upon a request by the woman.
In related news, the journalist who “broke” the original story, Elif Çakır, had her Twitter account hacked, with the hacker admitting to wrongdoing on her behalf.
5 – On a lighter note, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,
Hollywood star Julianne Moore may have won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar, but Turkish officials have rejected a bid to make her Turkey’s tourism face by citing her “poor acting.” The Culture and Tourism Ministry disapproved of the acclaimed actress’ performance in a film promoting tourism in Turkey and demanded a reshoot. However, Moore declined the ministry’s offer, ultimately leading to the cancellation of the project, daily Hürriyet has learned.
The story also received satirical commentary in The Onion.Follow @mediascrnturkey