Turkey lifts shutdown order on Bianet news site: lawyer

On Tuesday, it emerged that an Ankara court had ordered the blocking of Bianet, known for its human rights coverage, on “national security” grounds.
Wednesday 07/08/2019
Members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hold stencils made by French street artist C215 representing portraits of imprisoned Turkish journalists, as they take part in a demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Paris, January 5, 2018. (Reuters)
Members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hold stencils made by French street artist C215 representing portraits of imprisoned Turkish journalists, as they take part in a demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Paris, January 5, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkish authorities have lifted a closure order against independent news site Bianet after an outcry against a move the company’s lawyer said Wednesday had been made “by mistake.”

On Tuesday, it emerged that an Ankara court had ordered the blocking of Bianet, known for its human rights coverage, on “national security” grounds.

It also targeted 135 other online addresses including YouTube and DailyMotion videos, as well as the Twitter account of Kurdish member of parliament Oya Ersoy.

Bianet lawyer Meric Eyuboglu said Wednesday that the closure order had been annulled.

“The head of the police asked for the cancellaton of this decision as Bianet had got onto the list by mistake,” Eyuboglu said in a statement carried on its website.

Eyuboglu apparently discovered that the decision had actually been made on July 16 but the authorities had not notified the company.

Examining the dossier on Wednesday, the lawyer said she found that the decision had then been annulled on July 17.

Founded in Istanbul in 1997, Bianet is well-known in Turkey for its articles on human rights, violence against women and its exhaustive coverage of trials linked to freedom of expression. Its articles are published in Turkish, English and Kurdish.

An article on Bianet said Tuesday that more than 200,000 of its articles would be lost by the shutdown.

The local chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) decried the decision as “scandalous” and “totally arbitrary,” calling for it to be overturned.

Rights groups have regularly criticised the erosion of free speech in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially since a failed coup attempt in 2016 triggered a massive crackdown on government critics in the press and beyond.

Turkey is the only country apart from China to block Wikipedia, and was ranked 157th out of 180 countries for freedom of the press in the most recent RSF list.

(AFP)