Following a series of alleged telephone conversations purporting to be Prime Minister Erdogan which were leaked online, Erdogan has warned that social networks such as Facebook and You Tube could be banned, further stoking the fires of a high-level corruption scandal, news of which broke out last December.
“There are new steps we will take in that sphere after March 30 … including a ban [on YouTube, Facebook],” Erdogan told private ATV television in an interview late on Thursday. Local elections, critical to the government will be held on 30th March.
The prime minister’s response to the corruption allegations and the leaked phone conversations has drawn criticism from the international community, since thousands of police officers were removed from office and reassigned and a number of Judges and prosecutors were also removed from their posts.
A new law seriously affecting the independence of the judiciary was brought in last week, while another law, recently passed, allows extensive state control over the internet.
The leaked recordings allegedly of Erdogan talking to his son (also possibly linked to the graft scandal,) include the prime minister allegedly speaking to a former justice minister urging him to closely watch a court case to make sure that media mogul Aydin Dogan, a man at odds with the prime minister and whom tax authorities fined $600 million in a separate case in 2009, gets a guilty judgement in court.
Erdogan has variously dismissed the conversations as being doctored, calling them“vile” and “immoral montages.”
The prime minister has accused his former ally, Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of mounting a campaign against him to discredit him and his government. Gulen has denied these charges and has initiated proceedings against Erdogan for libel.
The power struggle between Erdogan and Gulen has seen the value of the lira plummet and caused great concern about Turkey’s political stability and its effect on the economy.