Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Turkey Initiative, Ambassador Morton Abramowitz and Ambassador Eric S. Edelman, on the Turkish government’s recent decision to block access to Twitter.
“In light of the Turkish government’s most recent censoring of freedom of speech, a fundamental liberty and indispensable element of democracy, we reiterate our call, made in a bipartisan letter signed by 84 former U.S. lawmakers, government officials and national security experts, that President Obama and U.S. officials ‘make it clear, privately and publicly, that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s autocratic actions and demagoguery are subverting Turkey’s political institutions and values and endangering the U.S.-Turkey relationship.’
“We are further deeply dismayed at this development and are concerned about Turkey’s current path. The United States and Turkey share a strong historic alliance based upon the shared values of democracy and protecting freedom. Prime Minister Erdoğan’s ban on Twitter is the most recent evidence that Turkey’s democracy—and the foundation of our alliance—are being swiftly eroded. Turkey’s political health is vitally important to its future stability, economic growth, ability to wield regional influence, and, therefore, ties to the United States. Washington should be open with Ankara regarding its increasing concerns about press freedom, freedom of assembly, rule of law, and the Turkish government’s increasing authoritarianism.”
BPC’s Turkey Initiative has written extensively on the importance of restoring a more cooperative U.S.-Turkish relationship and argued, in their latest report, Turkey’s Local Elections: Actors, Factors, and Implications, that strengthening Turkey’s democracy is critical to doing so. Turkey’s local elections later this month will be Turkish voters’ first opportunity to formally respond to recent political turbulence, despite recent attempts to silence the opposition.