Following the violent anti-government protests in Turkey and dictatorship claims, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said that he is not a tyrant and that social media is the biggest menace of the society.
The peaceful sit-in organized by several people at Taksim Square in Istanbul spiraled into an uprising against the government when violent demonstrations erupted between activists and the police force on Friday.
Indeed, the social media played a key role in organizing the protests as people present at Taksim Square uploaded pictures, videos and gave live updates on Twitter on their mobile phones about the clashes and incidents of police ill-treatment.
Anti-Erdogan tweets and comments were rife on social media websites especially Twitter:
After Gaddafi, Mubarak, & Bashar, Erdogan declared on Sunday that Twitter is evil. twitter.com/FuatKircaali/s…— Fuat Kircaali (@FuatKircaali) June 2, 2013
On Saturday, in a televised speech Erdogan regarding increasing social media activism said, “If this is about holding meetings, if this is a social movement, where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party. Every four years we hold elections and this nation makes its choice ... Those who have a problem with government's policies can express their opinions within the framework of law and democracy.”
The next day when the protests spiraled out of control, the Turkish Prime Minister said, “This reaction is no longer about the ripping out 12 trees. This is based on ideology.” Referring to the planned mosque, he added: "Obviously I will not ask for permission for this from the head of CHP or a few looters.”
His statement in which he compared the protesters to looters drew much more public ire. People named him the ‘modern day Sultan’ and called him a dictator.
Saudi Sharifs obviously won't be pleased seeing their friend, Sultan Erdogan, in a fix.— Haider (@syedmhaider) June 1, 2013
Following the protests and claims on social media websites, an agitated Tayyip Erdogan said, “There is now a menace which is called Twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”
“If they call someone who has served the people a ‘dictator,’ I have nothing to say. My only concern has been to serve my country.”
Erdogan is not the first leader to denounce Twitter amid fears of being ousted. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Kuwait are also among the countries where leaders have literally punished citizens to tweet against the government policies.
In January this year, a man was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in a Kuwaiti court for insulting the country’s ruler on Twitter.Human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested in Bahrain for protesting against her father’s detention and her tweets about the Bahraini uprising on the Twitter account AngryArabiya (@angryarabiya). Saudi Arabia considered Twitter-user anonymity and social media was considerably responsible for the Egyptian Revolution.
Also, protesters on different microblogging sites have claimed that the Turkish government is ignoring incidents relating to police brutality. Just this morning news emerged on Reddit that a human rights activist was allegedly shot and killed by the police and the state media of Turkey was not reporting the incident.
His dislike for Twitter may not right but makes sense as these social media websites have actually caused a lot of damage to his reputation and his policies. It remains to be seen whether or not he will ban all these internet forums. But then again, it will only further destroy his image and that would be the least intelligent step towards curbing the violence in his country.
Any head of state that calls Twitter evil should be removed from office immediately. Social media justice. #Erdogan— Kiwichettan (@BarnabyHM) June 2, 2013