If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last week then you’re likely aware of the failed military coup that took place in Turkey last Friday. Nearly 300 people were killed and many more were injured.
On Tuesday, a few days after the coup, WikiLeaks published 294,546 emails (along with thousands of attachments) which allegedly came from the domain of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
A day before publishing the emails, WikiLeaks tweeted that they were under a “sustained attack”. Although the nonprofit was unable to accurately determine the source of the attack, they said that “the timing suggests a Turkish state power faction or its allies,” were behind it.
That said, the site was back up Tuesday morning, and WikiLeaks followed through with publishing nearly 300,000 emails, the oldest of which date all the way back to 2010, and the most recent were sent on July 6th of this year.
According to a brief published on the WikiLeaks website, the emails were obtained a week before the attempted coup. WikiLeaks also mentioned that the source of the leak is not in any way connected to the coup, nor a rival political party.
Over the last half decade, Turkey has been ranked only as “Partially Free” by Freedom House, placing it between Mexico and DR Congo when it comes to media freedom. With a ranking like that, it should come as no surprise that the Turkish government promptly blocked access to WikiLeaks in light of the email dump.
Turkey is no stranger to blocking online content, in fact they’re one of the world’s most block-happy nations. They regularly call for social networks like Facebook and Twitter to remove anti-AKP posts and suspend accounts. And nearly every time a website is blocked in Turkey, the telecommunications board says that “administrative measures” were taken – as was the case on Wednesday.
Human rights violations
A Turkish official said that the imposed ban on WikiLeaks is necessary because the content was obtained illegally. Human rights activists weren’t happy with the country’s decision, to say the least, but larger concerns continue to surface.
Hours after the failed coup, Erdogan and his party moved to the offensive, detaining more than 50,000 people suspected to be behind the plot. In an interview, Erdogan said that reinstating the death penalty for those involved is on the table. These comments raised even more controversy for the events in Turkey, and several world superpowers (including the US) brought forward formal warnings.
The fact that Turkey commonly uses Internet shutdowns in response to political events isn’t comforting either. The country is still in a state of emergency, and the citizens have had their freedom of expression muffled through overreaching censorship. It’s unclear whether or not the government will reverse their ruling, but if history continues to repeat itself, it’s unlikely that Turkish netizens will ever regain access to WikiLeaks.