Turkish authorities arrested owners of three influential Twitter accounts who criticize the government on terrorism charges, highlighting recent crackdowns on dissent, Ahval reported.
Mesut Aykin, who directed a vocal Twitter account called “Türkiye Gerçekleri” (Facts of Turkey), was detained in Istanbul and taken to Ankara for interrogation, Medya Faresi news website reported. Aykin was accused of spreading the propaganda of the religious movement of the Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of organizing the failed coup d’etat in 2016.
Journalist Oktay Yasar, the owner of an account called Ankara Kusu (Ankara Bird), and manager Umit Kaya were detained on the same charge, the Daily Sabah writes.
Yasar’s account, which had over half a million subscribers, is currently unavailable online. Kaya, until recently, was a consultant to Turkish human rights activist Mehmet Bekaroglu.
Ankara Kusu is known in Turkey for its accurate and scandalous leaks about the internal work of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The account was created in November 2016 and in the early years was known as the supporting government of Erdogan.
In recent years, though, Ankara Kusu began publishing numerous stories on corruption within the AKP organisations, leading it to an explosive conflict with the former mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek.
Ankara Kusu accurately predicted that the ruling party would lose Ankara and Istanbul to the opposition in the last local elections in 2019.
The account is also known for its strong support for the Future Party of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The arrest of Twitter users occurred at a time when the Turkish government was criticized for its actions in connection with the country's coronavirus pandemic and the deepening economic crisis. It appears that authorities have decided to stifle criticism. Local journalists continue to be arrested for reporting deaths from a COVID-19. Media organizations closely linked to Erdogan’s government have recently published numerous stories attacking the opposition media.
The Turkish interior ministry arrests users of social networks whose posts are considered provocative. Some of these posts are simple jokes or harsh criticisms of Erdogan.
A truck driver who said he had to make money to feed his family and could not stay home during the pandemic was detained the day after his Instagram video went viral. The Interior Minister said the driver had “ulterior motives,” and he wanted to stir up panic and spread fear among the public.