Turkey's president Erdogan declares he is 'increasingly against Internet': CPJ

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, known for his suspicion of new technology, declared he was "increasingly against the Internet every day" as he defended curbs on online freedoms, a journalists' rights group who met with him said on Friday. --
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, known for his suspicion of new technology, declared he was "increasingly against the Internet every day" as he defended curbs on online freedoms, a journalists' rights group who met with him said on Friday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, known for his suspicion of new technology, declared he was "increasingly against the Internet every day" as he defended curbs on online freedoms, a journalists' rights group who met with him said Friday.

Mr Erdogan made the comments in a meeting with activists from rights groups The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and International Press Institute (IPI) in Ankara on Thursday, the CPJ said.

His remarks came just after Turkey's constitutional court on Thursday overturned new amendments to a controversial law that granted the country's telecoms authority more powers to monitor online users and block websites.

Mr Erdogan justified stepping up controls on online speech by saying that extremist organisations, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists who have seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, were using the Internet to recruit followers.

"I am increasingly against the Internet every day," Mr Erdogan said, according to a statement released by the US-based CPJ on Friday. The CPJ voiced concern at the meeting over the increasingly repressive atmosphere for journalists in the country.

But it said that "Turkey's leaders aggressively defended their record on press freedom issues, denying that they had applied undue pressure."

According to the CPJ, Erdogan brushed off the criticism and said: "Media should never have been given the liberty to insult." The activists separately met with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said he was ready to protect any journalists who come under threat."Although we disagree with government leaders on the role of news media, we are encouraged by their willingness to meet with us," the CPJ said.

The changes overturned by the constitutional court had come on top of a law in February that significantly tightened state control over the Internet, sparking outrage both at home and abroad.

Mr Erdogan, who was elected president last month after ruling Turkey as premier for over a decade, has long scorned social media, comparing the likes of Twitter to a "knife in the hand of a murderer." The government temporarily blocked Twitter and YouTube in March after they were used to spread audio recordings implicating Erdogan and his inner circle in a corruption scandal.

In December last year, the CPJ described Turkey as the world's number one jailer of journalists for the second straight year, ahead of Iran and China.