Turkey blocked access to WikiLeaks on Wednesday after the website published nearly 300,000 emails that were allegedly sent by members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling AKP party. Quoting a statement from Turkey's telecommunications watchdog, Reuters reports that an "administrative measure" was taken against the whistleblowing site, which published the emails and attached files on Tuesday.
In a statement on its website, WikiLeaks said the documents were obtained one week before Friday's failed military coup in Turkey, in which nearly 300 people were killed. "However, WikiLeaks has moved forward its publication schedule in response to the government's post-coup purges," the organization said. "We have verified the material and the source, who is not connected, in any way, to the elements behind the attempted coup, or to a rival political party or state."
Erdoğan has swiftly moved to stifle opposition following the failed coup, detaining or suspending more than 50,000 people suspected of plotting against the president and his government. The purge has targeted soldiers, police officers, teachers, and government employees, according to Turkish media. Erdoğan has also said he would be open to reinstating the death penalty in Turkey, raising concerns among human rights groups and drawing warnings from European foreign ministers.
After announcing plans to publish the so-called "Erdoğan emails," WikiLeaks announced on Monday that its website suffered a "sustained attack." The Sweden-based nonprofit said it could not determine the origin of the attack, though in a tweet it said that "the timing suggests a Turkish state power faction or its allies." The site was back up by Tuesday, allowing the organization to publish its first batch of emails and documents. It is not clear when other emails will be published.
"A free press and open internet have proved essential to everyone."
Turkey has blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites in the past, and Erdoğan has in recent years intensified his crackdown on journalists and dissident websites. But the embattled president embraced the internet to mobilize public sentiment against last week's attempted coup, calling for public demonstrations on Twitter and during a television interview conducted through Apple's FaceTime feature.
"The role of internet and press freedoms in defeating the coup presents a significant opportunity," Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Information, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece this week. "Rather than further polarization and painting of all dissent as illegitimate, the government should embrace real reforms and reverse its censorship policies."
"A free press and open internet have proved essential to everyone — even those at the height of power," Tufekci added.