Turkey bans reports, Internet posts of ‘Islamist arms delivery’

Turkish newspapers, television, websites and social media networks are affected by the banning

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Turkey on Wednesday imposed an all-out media blackout, including on Facebook and Twitter, prohibiting publication of reports claiming Turkish intelligence services delivered arms to Syrian Islamist rebels last year.

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) delivered a court ruling to Turkish newspapers, television, websites and social media networks, banning them from reporting the arms allegations.

On Wednesday, a court ordered access blocked to any Internet site publishing the new cover of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet a week after 12 people were killed in a jihadist attack on its offices.

The earlier interdiction on reporting the arms allegations arose from events in January last year, when Turkish police stopped and seized seven trucks near the Syrian border that were suspected of smuggling weapons into Syria. The move came as the government in Ankara denied suspicions it was aiding rebel forces.

That ban was imposed after a Twitter account with handle @LazepeM leaked a series of documents indicating that the seized trucks were actually National Intelligence Agency (MIT) vehicles delivering weapons to Syrian Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Hurriyet newspaper reported that a Turkish court ordered the closure of all websites, including social media networks Facebook and Twitter, that don't remove information or allegations linked to the documents.

"There are several court decisions against the websites that published the signed documents," a Turkish official was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.

Twitter, which was previously blocked by the Turkish government, immediately removed the documents and suspended the account that published them.

But by that time the information had already begun circulating on many other websites, as well as some Facebook accounts.

The contents of the vehicles have never been revealed to the public, but MIT claimed they were carrying humanitarian aid to war-stricken Syrians.

The government, which stands accused of protecting MIT officials, sacked the prosecutor involved in the case and blocked further investigation into it.

Nineteen security officials who stopped the trucks are currently on trial on "spying" charges. They face so-called aggravated life sentences if found guilty.

Turkey, which backs the rebellion against Assad, has repeatedly denied allegations that it is supplying arms to rebels or is backing Al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria.

Turkey frequently orders blackouts of media coverage of controversial issues.

In June it imposed a total ban on media reporting the kidnapping of dozens of Turks by Islamist militants in northern Iraq -- a prohibition lifted when the hostages were released in September after a three month ordeal.

Twitter and YouTube were temporarily blocked in Turkey last year after both platforms were used by opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to post allegations of corruption within his inner circle.

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