The Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB) banned access to Twitter citing the company's disregard of court orders to prevent attacks on personal freedom and privacy, in the form of the publication of certain illegally obtained contents.
As usual, discussions were neither analytically nor judicially based. A public power apparatus, whose duty is to protect the freedom of every citizen, did not care for the protection of the clashes between freedom of thought and personal rights.
It was never discussed what to do in the case that Twitter shows no regard. However, governments in democratic countries do not have the luxury of saying "there is nothing I can do about it" when the basic rights of citizens are under attack.
They are forced to implement protection by drawing on their sovereignty and authority. They do this to protect not only freedom of thought, but also to prevent illegitimate attacks on their personal rights. On the other hand, it is known that the Turkish court system has been exhibiting apathy in areas such as intellectual freedom, which was often to be found in its clashes with official ideologies.
However, the segment that has opposed the ban the most showed no signs of objection when Twitter and Youtube were banned for publishing videos criticizing Atatürk. Websites such as Youtube and Geocities remained banned for three years for this exact reason.
It is apparent that these segments are against the reason behind the ban rather than the ban itself. So, the reaction is actually toward the fact that any possibility of attacking through the disregard of ethics and judicial procedures are removed.
This undeniable truth does not change the fact that a complete ban is a problem. However, this is not the only reason for the apathy towards other types of freedom. All academics in Turkey, being a country with a long history of intellectual crimes, have attributed great importance to freedoms that matter in terms of shattering ideological frameworks based on a hundred-year-old constitutional order.
For instance, injustices with regards to fair trial have desensitized academics in terms of harming the rights of others and public order.
The discussion of freedom to demonstrate, freedom of travel, commerce, ownership and security of other people has been trivialized.
The same goes for the freedom of intellectual explanation. The stabilization of the freedom of other people's personal rights, and the protection or trial proceedings of state and commercial secrets, is a topic that many debaters do not want to hear.
In fact, the claim that there are no correlations between commercial advertisements and intellectual freedom is still a strong academic claim. At that point, our discussions stop being about freedom, and our agenda is determined by perceptions and deep beliefs.
The importance of freedom is not determined by its execution through ideological or political motives.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.