Access Now urgently appeals to the government of Turkey, and all relevant authorities to ensure unfettered access to the internet and digital communications platforms for all and to protect people’s fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey.
On February 8, Turkish authorities were reported to throttle Twitter across the country, leaving people unable to access the vital communications platform without Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
“People’s lives are hanging in the balance after the deadly earthquake and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Turkey. This is a disastrous time for the government to disconnect people from communication platforms,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “What millions of people across Turkey need is an open, secure, reliable, and accessible internet to stay connected, access information, solicit donations and humanitarian support, and collectively support each other.”
Although the platform has now been restored — following a wave of criticism directed towards the government — people are left with uncertainty as to whether another blocking may occur. Authorities must refrain from blocking access to the internet and all digital platforms throughout these difficult times and beyond.
“At this moment of devastating grief and chaos, online platforms are a crucial lifeline for people looking for their missing, checking-in on their loved ones, and finding ways to save lives,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “Natural disasters do not erode Turkey’s obligation to uphold and protect people’s rights to freedom of expression and access to information online.”
Internet shutdowns can endanger lives during crises, disrupt people’s ability to connect with their loved ones, derail rapid response and help during emergencies, and leave people in a state of confusion and mental stress. We urge all public authorities in Turkey and telecommunications providers in the country to refrain from taking any future actions in the days ahead that would interfere with internet access, in times where access to information is more vital than ever.