By Hamdi Firat Buyuk
General Directorate of Security, Turkish Police on Friday issued a directive banning all audio-visual recordings of citizens at protests.
“These kind of audio-visual recordings prevent them [the police] from fulfilling their duties and must not be permitted; they should prevent those taking recordings of a protest or action,” the directive said.
It said legal action will be taken against any citizens who record the police in any social events.
The police claim that audio-visual recordings of officers while they are fulfilling their duties during social events violate their privacy and reveal their identities.
Rights groups condemned the new directive as blatant censorship.
The Istanbul branch of the Association of Progressive Lawyers, CHD said that it was clearly introduced to guarantee police anonymity ahead of any incidents on May 1, International Labour Day.
“If your personnel are recorded while torturing someone, this could be presented as evidence. Once again, your duty is not to torture, it is a crime!” CHD wrote on Twitter. CHD told citizens that if they see a crime being committed, they can take audiovisual recording as “evidence.”.
Police brutality and torture are major problems in Turkey.
The 2021 report of the international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, HRW, noted a rise in Turkey of allegations of torture, ill-treatment and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment by security personnel.
“A recipe for disaster – no cameras, no accountability.” Emma Sinclair-Webb, HRW’s Associate Director for Europe and Central Asia wrote on Twitter regarding the latest directive.
Turkish police are known for making brutal interventions in protests in recent years, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government becomes ever more authoritarian.
Police used rubber bullets, pepper gas in the latest student protests in Istanbul, objecting to a politically appointed rector at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University. Several protesters, local residents and journalists were injured.
The Turkish Medical Association said 22 people lost their lives, and at least 8,000 people were injured and 63 seriously wounded during the Gezi Park Protests in 2013 – the first mass protest against Erdogan’s Islamist government.
The protests started after the government decided to impose a new urban plan for the area, including a shopping mall in Gezi Park, the only green part of the iconic Istanbul square. In a short time, the protests spread to many other towns and cities, prompting a harsh police crackdown.
“Had this directive been in place, the people would have been unable to learn about the police intervention against observing May 1 in İzmir, when an officer kneeled on a protestor’s neck, preventing him from breathing,” Dokuz8 News, an independent media outlet, reported, defining the new directive as a ban on citizens’ journalism.