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Russian state news agency website Sputnik has been shut down by Turkey without prior notification under “administrative measures” imposed by the country’s authorities. Turkey was recently slammed in the European Parliament for violating press freedoms.
“After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the law Nr. 5651, administration measure has been taken for this website (sputniknews.com) according to decision Nr. 490.05.01.2016.-56092 dated 14/04/2016 of the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication”, says an error message that appears on the sputniknews.com homepage for any user trying to access the site from Turkey.
Sputnik’s Turkish bureau chief Tural Kerimov said that the Turkish authorities had failed to notify the agency of any alleged violations in advance of the abrupt blocking. “We received no notifications, warnings or other messages from the competent authorities. No communications have been received since the blocking”, he said. The problems with sputniknews.com were first reported at about 7:50pm local time. The Department of Telecommunications and Communication responded to the website request for clarification by saying that “because it is already late and there are no responsible persons [available], we cannot provide comment on this issue”. Further comments are expected to come at a later date.
The unexplained move comes on the heels of an EU resolution on Thursday, which denounced what they called a “serious backsliding on fundamental freedoms”, including the growth of clashes in the southeast of Turkey and government’s “violent and illegal take-over of several newspapers including Zaman”.
The Turkish government of President Erdogan has clamped down on a number of Turkish media outlets critical of Ankara government’s policies, however, this is the first time an international news agency has been silenced.
Turkey has blocked Twitter and Facebook more than once, arrested foreign journalists accusing them of terrorism, yet one of the most shocking episodes of Turkish censorship so far has been the raid on the Today’s Zaman headquarters in March, described as “a totally barbaric act” by its ex-editor in chief Bulent Kenes.
“The government power [in Ankara] can be used to supress any opinion, including Sputnik or domestic opinion, the government doesn’t want to hear”, professor of social and political history at the University of Michigan Ronald G. Suny told RT, describing the “harsh campaign” against journalists in Turkey. “There’s been a real harsh campaign lately against journalists, against political activists, against academicians, people who have signed the petition trying to get the Turkish government to stop their brutal war against the Kurds in Southeastern Turkey”, Suny added. The signing of the petition by journalists, academicians and intellectuals “has been seen by the government, in an extreme and very rash move, as treason…” The Turkish President is one of those leaders who reject any criticism and “feel humiliated by it”, Suny believes, saying that Erdogan’s criminal complaint as a response to a satirical poem about him written by a German comedian only proves the case. “Every politician has to take blows, that comes with the territory. Think of President Obama –how much he is abused, or Putin as well. So Erdogan is no different and yet he’s reacted so fiercely. This satire, this funny song which is really amazing and quite hilarious… it’s too close to the bone for him”. “[Erdogan] has overreacted, calling in the German ambassador, putting pressure on Chancellor Merkel to somehow withdraw this thing… That would be against the Constitution of Germany. It’s not the way democratic governments work and it’s not going to happen”.