Sunday 22 September 2019

Turkey blocks Twitter access to halt spread of Suruc blast images

Relatives and friends of two of the victims of the Suruc explosion sing a national song during their funeral (AP)
Relatives and friends of two of the victims of the Suruc explosion sing a national song during their funeral (AP)

Turkey briefly blocked access to Twitter today to prevent images of a devastating bomb attack in the country from being broadcast - and, according to reports, to stop calls for protests against the government.

A government official said Turkey had asked Twitter to remove 107 URLs with images of the aftermath of the bombing in Suruc, on the border with Syria, on Monday which killed 32 people and wounded scores more.

Twitter had removed about 50 of the URLs before it was blocked, but access was restored a few hours later.

The Turkish government official said access was restored after the company "removed malicious content, including hate speech, in line with the court order".

A court in Suruc had earlier issued a ban on the publication of images related to the bombing in the media, including the internet and social media platforms, and ruled access be barred to internet sites that do not comply with the ban, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkish officials had raised concerns that the bombing is part of a retaliation campaign by the Islamic State group for the government's crackdown on its operations in Turkey.

More than 500 people suspected of working with IS have been detained in the last six months - including an operation this month that netted 21 suspects in an investigation of IS recruitment networks in Turkey.

Protests have erupted in Istanbul and other cities since the Suruc bombing, with demonstrators blaming the government for the attack.

Yesterday, police detained a group of people before they could march to a local ruling party office in Istanbul. Protesters also threw fireworks as police officers attempted to disperse the crowd at a separate protest in the city.

Turkey has periodically blocked social media.

The government ordered a temporary block on Twitter and YouTube earlier this year during a hostage crisis in an Istanbul courthouse. Those sites were also blocked last year after audio recordings of a secret Turkish security meeting suggesting corruption by government officials were leaked on social media. Turkey's highest court, however, overturned those bans, deeming them to be unconstitutional.

Previous moves by Turkish authorities to block the social media networks have provoked widespread criticism by Western governments and human rights organisations.

Meanwhile, authorities have confirmed that Monday's attack was a suicide bombing and identified the bomber as Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, a Turkish national.

Anadolu said Alagoz's older brother ran a now closed tea house where IS was believed to have recruited followers. The two brothers had been reported missing for the past two months, it said.

PA Media

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