ANKARA: Turkey’s embattled prime minister has warned that his government could ban popular social media networks YouTube and Facebook after a number of online leaks added momentum to a spiralling corruption scandal.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tightened his government’s grip over the Internet, generating criticism at home and abroad about rights in the EU-hopeful country.
“There are new steps we will take in that sphere after March 30... including a ban (on YouTube, Facebook),” Erdogan told private ATV television in an interview late Thursday.
Erdogan, Turkey’s all-powerful leader since 2003, has been under mounting pressure after audio recordings were leaked last month in which he and his son allegedly discuss how to hide vast sums of money.
The Turkish premier dismissed them as a “vile” and an “immoral” montage by rivals ahead of key local elections on March 30. His office claimed the recordings were “completely untrue”.
A series of other leaks on YouTube showed Erdogan allegedly meddling in trade deals and court cases.
Erdogan’s government has also been shaken by a high-level corruption scandal that erupted in mid-December and ensnared the premier’s key political and business allies.
Erdogan has waged a war against ally-turned-opponent Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric based in the United States with strong influence over the country’s police and the judiciary, of orchestrating the graft probe.
He has accused so-called “Gulenists” of acting like a “parallel state” and vowed to cleanse the state of the movement’s supporters by purging police and passing laws to increase his grip over the Internet and the judiciary.
“Social media has turned into a domain for quite some time where the battle between the loyalists of the frustrated prime minister and the alleged ‘parallel state’ is in full swing,” Asli Tunc, professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, told AFP.
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