Tech-skeptic Erdogan sends first tweet

Appropriately enough for the Islamic-rooted leader, it was a tweet denouncing smoking on Turkey’s national anti-tobacco day

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He has compared social media to the “murderer’s knife,” proudly declared he does not “tweet or schmeet” and overseen blanket bans on Twitter.

But has Turkey’s famously technology-phobic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally lost his hostility to Twitter?

Erdogan, currently on an official visit to Colombia, on Monday sent his first ever personal tweet from the account @RT_Erdogan, the presidential administration announced.

Appropriately enough for the Islamic-rooted leader, it was a tweet denouncing smoking on Turkey’s national anti-tobacco day.

“Get a grip of yourself against this poison,” Erdogan wrote, using the hashtag #SigarayaTeslimOlma (Don’t give in to cigarettes) and signing off with his initials RTE.

The account handle had in the past been used by supporters of Erdogan but it has now been taken over by the presidential administration for the president’s tweets. It has already been verified by Twitter as an official account.

“The account in question has just been opened. It’s his excellency’s own account. Tweets from him are signed ‘RTE’,” Mucahit Kucukyilmaz, the head of public communications at the presidential office, told the Anatolia news agency.

He added that official tweets from his staff on the account will be posted without the signature.

“He wanted to make a start on a meaningful day like this,” he added referring to the anti-smoking campaign.

Kucukyilmaz did not say what had prompted apparent change of heart on Twitter by Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey for over a decade first as prime minister and now as president.

Many top Turkish officials already have active accounts, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (@Ahmet_Davutoglu).

But Erdogan had until now shown nothing but scorn for the service.

“I have nothing to do with Twitter. I don’t have that much free time anyway. I’m working day and night,” he said in February 2014.

In August 2014 he compared social media to a “knife in the hand of a murderer”, saying “I don’t like to tweet, schmeet.”

His suspicion of social media dates back to the mass protests in June 2013 against his rule, which were largely mobilised by posts on Twitter and Facebook.

The government blocked Twitter and YouTube in March 2014 after they were used to spread a torrent of audio recordings implicating the prime minister and his inner circle in an alleged corruption scandal.

The ban on social media was later overturned by the country’s top constitutional court.

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