The Turkish government’s apparent banning of Twitter and Tik Tok on 8 February was a blow to rescue efforts as people trapped under the earthquake debris had been communicating via social media regarding their whereabouts in order to aid rescue operations, reported Amnesty International.
Amnesty International released a report on human rights violations in Turkey and Syria on 23 February following the 6 February earthquakes.
The report focused on the rights to life, protection against arbitrary detention, security of person, freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, freedom of expression and association, and the obligation to grant and maintain international protection to refugees. Amnesty made it clear that “human rights are not suspended” in times of such crises.
“The state is obligated to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right to freedom of expression. Any restrictions on this right must be provided by law and be necessary and proportionate,” said the institution.
Amnesty International drew attention to the banning of social media in Turkey and added that any such ban was neither necessary nor proportionate to meet a legitimate state objective, which should have been to facilitate lifesaving technologies, not cut them off.
“Survivors of humanitarian disasters have a right to timely, relevant, accessible and accurate information in a language they understand, without discrimination,” said Amnesty International.
The report added that the Turkish government’s response to the earthquake catastrophe led to widespread criticism and that caused Turkish authorities to be offended by criticism about their handling of the crisis.
President Erdoğan publicly threatened to target those who criticised the authorities and in the first two days of the earthquake, the state detained over 90 people, including journalists, with some detentions based solely on their social media posts which Amnesty called an “arbitrary detention”.