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Turkey Arrests Dozens for Criticizing Government on Twitter

Turkish officials have arrested dozens of people for speaking out against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter. The moves are deepening concerns which have already triggered a wave of Western criticism leveled in response to the authoritarian overtones of Ankara’s ongoing crackdown on protesters:

“Polis raided 38 addresses and took the ones they captured to the police station,” reported CNN Turk (with a translation via Reddit). “Sixteen people are taken into custody for encouraging rebellion using social media and making propaganda … It is reported that the number of people in custody may increase while the police is still questioning the ones taken into custody.”

But again, it’s remains almost completely unclear what these tweeters did or who these tweeters are — reports only suggest that they furthered the protests from their accounts. The terms “encouraging rebellion” and “making propaganda” aren’t really specific, and considering Erdogan’s aversion to Twitter and protesters in general, those terms could be broad and encompass things like retweeting protest plans, or circulating photos of the violence. “If that’s a crime, then we all did it,” Ali Engin, a local representative from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Izmir, told the DPA.

The wave of arrests comes just days after Turkish prime minister lashed out against Twitter and called social media “the worst menace to society.”

Turkish officials also suspended a popular television game show after the host asked candidates to guess the words “gas mask,” “police,” and “violence”:

“The situation is a bit confused at the moment,” Ihsan Varol, the presenter of “Word Game”, told the local Hurriyet daily on Wednesday after his show on the Turkish-language business channel Bloomberg HT was taken off the air following Monday’s protest-themed episode. “My time slot has been given away,” he said. The channel itself did not give a reason for the interruption of the daily program, according to the newspaper.

Ankara is trying to contain popular discontent after a week that saw sustained protests against Erdogan and his Islamist ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sweep the country. At least three people were killed and hundreds more were injured in the protests, which were met with heavy-handed responses by Turkish police forces.

[Photo: theatlanticwire.com]