Turkey sours on surveillance systems after alleged affair video
The resignation of Deniz Baykal, a major figure in Turkish politics, over a purported sex video has sharpened debate about whether Turkey's surveillance systems have been misused as smear weapons.
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Wiretaps have been an integral part of the “Ergenekon” investigation, but privacy advocates have accused civil servants of leaking to pro-government newspaper transcripts detailing the occasionally compromising personal conversations of suspects.Skip to next paragraph
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“These violations have created a psychological environment. The government has been usually complacent about such violations. They have not made this an issue and have not really taken step to deter such violations. So when there is not deterrence, people think they can engage in such violations and get away with it,” Mr. Ergin says.
Officials: Turkey no worse than Europe
Turkish officials have rejected the claims that wiretaps are being used as political weapons, saying the number of taps in Turkey is no higher than in other European countries. In the case of Baykal, meanwhile, government officials worked quickly to stop the online distribution of the controversial footage and asked intelligence officials to look into how it made its way online.
But critics say more needs to be done to protect the privacy of individuals.
“What about the poor average Turkish citizen? What if this happened to them? Would the government take the same approach as they did for Baykal? That’s why we need to have this broader discussion about privacy.”
Turks sense lurking Big Brother
For now, many Turks appear to be operating under the assumption that someone may be listening to what they are saying or watching what they are doing.
“Me and most of my colleagues do not feel that our conversations are private. Turkey has reached a point where nobody wants to talk to you on the phone if you are a journalist. Nobody wants to give you a quote on a critical topic,” says Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist with Milliyet, another Dogan newspaper.
The tapping “instills fear in society at large that there is a big brother watching all of us,” Aydintasbas says. “Privacy ... should be a non-negotiable element of a democracy.”