Ebru Umar, a 45 year-old Dutch columnist of Turkish descent, was arrested on 23 April over tweets which deemed to be offensive towards the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Umar was arrested at her apartment in Kuşadası and was taken to a local police station for investigation.
Umar, a writer and a prominent journalist, is a regular columnist for the Dutch Metro newspaper. She is known for her atheist and feminist views. On top of her cirtical tweets, a week before her arrest Umar wrote a critical column in the Netherlands where she called President Erdogan a “dictator”. The statement followed a call by the Turkish consular official in the Netherlands to “report incidents of insults against Mr Erdogan in the country”.
Umar was released from detention on 25 April, after being brought before a judge. Her release followed an online campaign under the hashtag #FreeEbru in the Netherlands. Umar is currently forbidden from leaving Turkey and is bound to report twice weekly at a police station. Umar is making legal efforts to lift the travel ban.
According to the Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net report for the year 2015, the press freedom of Turkey is marked “Not Free” and the net freedom is marked “Partly Free”. The report shows that social media apps and political content are being blocked in the country, while bloggers are being arrested. New regulations (law #5651) allow authorities to access user data without a warrant. Under these regulations, content may be banned arbitrarily by the Turkish regulator according to a list of obscure reasons, among them the “protection of national security and public order”.
The report indicates that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were temporarily banned in Turkey in April 2015 for publication of material deemed to be “sensitive” by authorities. The Freedom House’s report further reads the incredible fact that “In the first half of 2015, 92 percent of all court orders to remove content received by Twitter worldwide originated in Turkey”.