The Turkish government restricted access to the WikiLeaks website on July 19, after the site released almost 300,000 emails and thousands of attached files from President Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Wikileaks, a pro-transparency whistleblower website, obtained the emails earlier this month, but decided to hasten the release, “in response to the government’s post-coup purges.”
The emails include communication from 762 different mailboxes, all of which originate from the AKP’s server dating from 2010 until July 6, 2016. The content of all of the emails has yet to be fully analyzed, but the archive is searchable on the Wikileaks website. The site says that the source of the emails is not connected to the coup plotters or any other political rival group. Wikileaks also reported sustained cyber attacks against its servers, likely from Erdogan supporters.
Turkey’s Telecommunications Communications Board, the government agency that regulates internet usage, said that they had to take a “administrative measure” against the site, a reason commonly used when shutting down access to parts of the internet. A Turkish official said that the decision was made since the email cache was “illegally obtained”, and constituted an “invasion of privacy”. However, other digital distribution techniques ensure that the data is still accessible domestically.
Turkey has shut down parts of the internet in response to political events twice in the past year, including when they blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube after a March bus bombing in Ankara. In 2014, President Erdogan justified internet censorship by saying, “I am increasingly against the internet every day,” claiming that quickly circulating online news outlets “polarize” and “distort” the coverage of events. Now, following the military’s failed coup, the President will be able to increase repression even more, restricting freedom of speech and hindering opposition groups. A purge already begun, with the government detaining almost 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, and professors that are suspected of involvement in the anti-government coup attempt.