March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has faced near-daily leaks of audio tapes on the Internet, said the country may block access to websites including Facebook and YouTube.
Erdogan spoke in an interview with ATV television late yesterday, a day after saying that his administration may face a new threat from covertly recorded videos, which could include “the extreme of filming extramarital affairs, invading a family’s privacy and totally ignoring moral values.”
Turkey changed the law last month to allow the blocking of websites without a court order after leaks of phone conversations, many purportedly involving Erdogan himself, began to appear on social media sites in January. The premier said in the television interview that he wouldn’t be deterred from taking action by possible international reaction.
Blocking Facebook and YouTube was under consideration “because these people and institutions encourage all sorts of immorality, spying and espionage,” Erdogan said. President Abdullah Gul today ruled out a total ban on YouTube and Facebook, although he also said criminal content may be blocked.
Turkey’s corruption crisis began in December when scores of people with links to the government were detained on charges including gold-smuggling, bribery and bid-rigging -- allegations that have been described as an attempted coup by Erdogan.
The government has responded by removing prosecutors directing the investigations, restructuring a judicial body that selects judges and prosecutors, and by firing thousands of police officers.
Accusations of graft have damaged Erdogan, whose approval ratings fell to 43.5 percent last month from 59.1 percent a year before the investigation became public, according to an opinion poll conducted by Ankara-based MetroPOLL.
The survey also found about 37 percent of people would vote for Erdogan’s ruling party if general elections were held now, compared to the party’s 49.9 percent share of votes in the 2011 general election. The survey, which has an error margin of 2.5 percentage points, was conducted before Feb. 24, when tape recordings of Erdogan allegedly telling his son Bilal to get rid of large amounts of cash were posted on the Internet. Turkey holds local elections on March 30.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen -- a former ally -- and his supporters within the police and judiciary of illegally wiretapping phones and filming members of his party, government and their families.
“It is out of question for the Turkish Republic to tolerate a gang, a parallel structure within the state,” Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah Isler said today. “We will continue our struggle against this gang, this structure until the end with the support we will receive from our nation on March 30.”
Erdogan said he has talked to U.S. President Barack Obama and told him that the source of Turkey’s disquiet was in Pennsylvania, a reference to Gulen, who lives there.
“Many lawsuits” may emerge from investigations into Gulen, Erdogan said, adding that Turkey may seek an Interpol “red notice” for Gulen. The notices are based on national warrants, and are considered valid in some countries, though Interpol cannot demand arrests.
Erdogan also criticized opposition parties and Turkey’s largest media group Dogan for collaborating with the Gulen movement as it seeks to undermine the government with illegal tapes.
Recordings being posted on social media sites including Facebook amount to “insults” against Erdogan and his family, Lutfi Elvan, minister of transportation and communications, said today, according to state-run news agency Anatolia.
“Such acts” would be tolerated nowhere in the world, Elvan said. “
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