Twitter, blocked by the Turkish government for the last 9 days, has announced that a Turkish court where the company filed a petition has overturned the ban.
In an official blog post, the company said the decision is an exceptionally strong win for freedom of expression but does not address the broader issues which underlay the ban of Twitter in Turkey. It added they will continue to fight on behalf of their users.
An administrative court previously halted the execution of the ban on the grounds that the present Turkish law number 5651 does not allow the authorities to block a website in its entirety, only having the authority to do so for the ‘illegal’ pages or accounts..
However, the TIB, the Turkish authority in charge of internet regulations, declined to implement the decision saying that the affairs of TIB are not under the jurisdiction of the administrative courts. The ban has therefore remained in place while several institutions and individuals battle it out in the courts to overturn the original order.
The Turkish government has been increasingly tough on free speech in the internet lately as several voice recordings alleging high-level corruption hit the social networks. The government has since blocked YouTube with the defence that Google has denied to remove the accounts where ‘illegal’ recordings were found.
Here is what Twitter said about the latest win in the court:
Two days ago, we filed petitions in Turkish court to challenge the access ban on Twitter, joining Turkish journalists and legal experts, Turkish citizens, and the international community. We also petitioned a court to overturn an order underlying the access ban that instructed us to take down an account with Tweets that accused a former government minister of corruption.
Today we are pleased to announce that a Turkish court overturned that take-down order on freedom of expression grounds.
From our English translation of the Turkish order:
Freedom of speech and expression and the right to spread thoughts and opinions are fundamental rights and freedoms, which are under the Constitutional protection similar to all democratic countries. In this respect, everyone has the right to express their thoughts and in all possible ways they wish. No one may be forced to express their thoughts and opinion for any reason and purpose, and no one shall be censored or accused for that reason. Governmental bodies should avoid all acts and actions which restrict such freedom of people.
We have now immediately reversed the Country Withheld Content action previously taken to block access to that account in Turkey.
This decision is an exceptionally strong win for freedom of expression, and it will be of paramount value for us in protecting Twitter’s users against other attempts at censorship in the future.
While it represents a welcome outcome on one aspect of our legal efforts, this decision does not address the broader ban of Twitter in Turkey. We will continue to fight to have the ban lifted on behalf of the millions of people in Turkey who have come to rely on Twitter as a vital communications tool.