Yeni Şafak daily and the Media Association decried a ban by the social media website Facebook on the Istanbul-based newspaper's accounts. Facebook suddenly shut down accounts run by Yeni Şafak on Sunday evening without an explanation. Newspaper officials said they were told by the website's officials that their Turkish, Arabic and Sports pages were closed due to the "merging of several accounts."
Yeni Şafak Digital Publications Manager Ersin Çelik told Anadolu Agency (AA) that it was "a scandalous decision" to close down the pages and described the move as "censorship," while leading nongovernmental organization Media Association blasted the shutdown as "unprecedented in terms of censorship."
The pages, which have 10 million followers combined, were inaccessible as the news went to print.
Çelik said although Facebook promoted itself as an advocate of freedom of expression, it resorted to "an international sanction" by closing down Turkey's biggest media account on the social media website. He said Facebook officials cited the merging of accounts as the reason for the closure, adding the said merging was legitimate in terms of the website's policy and terms of service. He said they repeatedly contacted the website but they dragged down the "investigation of the case." "Last time we heard from them was a statement by Nick Wrenn [Facebook's director of media partnerships for Europe, Middle East and Africa]. He said the pages will be reopened but the number of followers will be decreased by about 100,000. We did not accept it," Çelik said. He said Facebook's censorship raised serious questions, pointing to statements by websites linked to the PKK terrorist organization, which boasted that their complaints made Facebook shut down Yeni Şafak's pages. The newspaper is known for its anti-terror coverage and frequent criticism of the terrorist organization. Çelik said they would launch "a national and international legal process" regarding the issue.
Yunus Göksu, digital platform coordinator for the Media Association, said Facebook's move was an unprecedented act of censorship. Condemning the incident, Göksu said in a written statement that Facebook did not even bother to give a formal explanation on why it closed the pages of a legitimate publication in Turkey. "Facebook ignores calls by countries and governments [to shut down accounts spreading terror propaganda], but it apparently acts in the interests of some terrorist organizations [for censorship]," he said. Göksu also pointed out to leaked correspondence between Yeni Şafak and Facebook officials by some social media accounts associated with the shady Gülen Movement, adding the same accounts also threatened other media outlets in Turkey. "The silencing of Yeni Şafak by Facebook is also a threat for other online publications in Turkey. Facebook should end this ban and reopen the pages as soon as possible," he said.