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Twitter ban will be lifted ‘soon’: Turkish president

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Twitter was once named `Twitch`, `Smssy`, `Friendstalker`!
Twitter was once named `Twitch`, `Smssy`, `Friendstalker`!

ANKARA: Turkey’s president said he believed the country would soon lift its ban on Twitter, condemned as a bid to muzzle a corruption scandal dogging the government ahead of key elections.

“I believe this problem will be over soon,” Abdullah Gul told reporters in Ankara before leaving for an official visit to the Netherlands.

“This is of course an unpleasant situation for such a developed country as Turkey, which has weight in the region and which is negotiating with the European Union. Therefore, it will be overcome soon.”

The ban was implemented last Thursday shortly after Turkey’s powerful Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “wipe out” Twitter, earning strong rebukes from rights groups and the country’s Western allies.

The government lashed out at Twitter on Saturday as “biased and prejudiced”, accusing the US-based social media giant of failing to abide by hundreds of court orders to remove content deemed illegal.

Critics say the Twitter ban is an attempt to hush up corruption allegations ensnaring Erdogan and the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of key local elections on March 30.

With a week to go to the vote, the AKP is also struggling to shake off the aftereffects of mass anti-government protests last year that were organized partly on Twitter, prompting Erdogan to label the site a “menace”.

“Blocking access to Twitter is the work of a government which is losing its self-confidence and strength,” veteran journalist Kadri Gursel wrote in the Milliyet newspaper.

Social media networks have been flooded almost daily by audio tapes allegedly depicting Erdogan talking with his son about hiding vast sums of money and interfering in court cases, business deals and media coverage.

Erdogan has dismissed most of the recordings as “vile” fakes concocted by his political rivals, including US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, formerly a staunch ally.

Erdogan’s office says his opponents used Twitter to carry out “systematic character assassinations”.

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