Turkey’s president has vowed to tighten government control over social media following alleged insults directed at his daughter and son-in-law when they announced the birth of their fourth child on Twitter.
Addressing his party’s provincial leaders via a conference call on Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened new legislation by the year’s end to stringently regulate “immoral” social media.
“Do you understand why we are against social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Netflix? To eradicate such immorality,” Erdogan told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
He said his government is determined to introduce legislation that would force social media companies to establish a legal presence in Turkey.
The requirement would mean they could be held financially accountable and forced to respond to Turkish court decisions.
‘Abusing a newborn’
Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is married to Erdogan’s daughter Esra, on Tuesday announced the birth of their fourth child, Hamza Salih, on Twitter.
The announcement was followed by insulting messages questioning the paternity.
Erdogan said investigations were under way against those who “attacked” his family by “abusing a newborn”.
“We will keep chasing these cowards who attack a family and the values they believe represented by them through a baby,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish leader blamed global social media companies with headquarters in Western nations for “turning a blind eye” to violations in Turkey.
“We experienced similar attacks in the past. The lack of monitoring on these platforms have a role in the rise of this sort of immoral behaviour,” he said.
“These platforms do not suit this country. We want these platforms to be banned, taken under control.”
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said a number of social media users had been detained overnight for allegedly posting insulting tweets.
Many Turks rallied in support of the president’s family and condemned the insults, including opposition politicians.
History of bans
Ankara regularly clamps down on dissent, most recently on posts about its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is accused of targeting opposition politicians, journalists, academics and lawyers for expressing their opinions online.
Erdogan last week faced a flood of “dislikes” on YouTube while addressing youth before their exams. When the live chat was quickly closed to comments, “No Votes” started trending on Twitter.
Turkish authorities have previously imposed temporary blocks on Twitter and other social media during crises, for example, following an air attack in Syria’s Idlib that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers in February this year.
Although Erdogan’s comments came days after the reported insults on social media, his government has long been considering amendments that would enable it to keep social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in check by forcing them to remove content or risk facing heavy fines and restricted access to their platforms.
Critics fear the move is aimed at further limiting the Turkish public’s ability to access independent news outlets in an environment dominated by pro-government media.
Turkey has blocked access to thousands of websites. In January, the government lifted a more than two-year ban on Wikipedia after Turkey’s top court ruled the block was unconstitutional.
Turkey had halted access to the online encyclopedia after it refused to remove content the government deemed to be offensive.
In December 2015, Turkey’s communications regulator issued an unprecedented fine on Twitter for allowing the publication of content deemed to justify terror.
Erdogan’s aversion to social media platforms dates back to huge anti-government protests in 2013, which were often mobilised by Twitter and Facebook posts.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
'We are all choking': Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai speaks out after arrest – theglobeandmail.com
The tightening legal regime in Hong Kong is suffocating a city that has long enjoyed liberties unavailable in other parts of China, says Jimmy Lai, the publishing tycoon arrested this week under a national security law imposed by Beijing.
“The oxygen is getting thin and we are all choking,” Mr. Lai said Thursday in an online discussion a day after he was released on bail. “But when we are choking, we are still taking care of each other – and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom.”
Mr. Lai was arrested Monday and accused of colluding with foreign powers and conspiracy to defraud. He was released from police custody just after midnight Wednesday.
His arrest has raised concerns at Next Digital, the publishing firm he founded, that he could be sent to mainland China for prosecution – and almost certain imprisonment – under the terms of the new national security law.
On Monday police also raided tabloid Apple Daily, one of Next Digital’s most important holdings.
On Thursday, Lau Siu-kai, a vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies who has been described in the city’s press as a spokesman for Beijing, argued that Next Digital “should not be considered a normal media organization” and should instead be seen as a political operation.
“The police operation at Next Media headquarters and their management-level offices involved documents and evidence of violations of the national security law,” he told the Beijing-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper. “It is a case of the government enforcing the law at a political group, but it is not targeting a news organization.” The People’s Daily, one of Beijing’s central state media organs, said Mr. Lai’s release “did not mean that he can escape from precise punishment under the city’s law.”
But Mr. Lai, who has been a vocal scourge of the Chinese Communist Party, has remained defiant. Accused of foreign collusion, he nonetheless appeared in the online broadcast Thursday alongside Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation. “There’s an enormous amount of men and women in Congress following your fate. You have America’s support,” Mr. Gonzalez said.
Mr. Lai responded by saying the voices of the American people are the best form of succour for Hong Kong because if “they voice out in support of Hong Kong, the politicians will have to listen and react. And that will be a very good saviour for us.”
More than a dozen of Hong Kong’s new national security police came to Mr. Lai’s home Monday morning, arriving shortly after he had completed his morning exercises. Still sweating, he asked if he could wash before being arrested. “You have to be very fast and you can’t close your door,” he was told. “We have to watch you.”
Initially worried that he would be taken to mainland China, Mr. Lai was relieved to discover that none of the officers spoke Mandarin. “Because I knew that I won’t be sent to China at least.”
Police arrested a total of 10 people in Hong Kong Monday on national security grounds, including two of Mr. Lai’s sons, four of his executives, a freelance journalist for Britain’s ITV news network and Agnes Chow, one of the top young political activists in the city. The arrests took place 40 days after the imposition of the new law.
Mr. Lai did not address the substance of the allegations against him. He had predicted his own arrest under the law. But he expressed surprise that the police would act so quickly, particularly following the outcry from the international community, which has included the cancellation of extradition treaties with Hong Kong by Canada and other countries – out of concerns people sent to the city would be redirected to face trial in mainland China – and the U.S. imposition of sanctions against the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.
Mr. Lai believed authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing would initially “keep a low profile” in implementing the new law, he said, to maintain calm among investors and the business community.
Instead, he was led out of his home in handcuffs and held by police for more than a day and a half. He acknowledged that Hong Kong’s democracy movement is much less powerful than China’s Communist Party. “This is a long fight,” he said.
But, he added, the incompatibility between China’s authoritarian system and the liberal democratic order threatens turbulence for years to come unless Beijing alters course. “People want China to realize that without assimilating to international Western values, there won’t be peace in international trade or politics or diplomacy.”
Though his future is uncertain – the accusations against him are punishable with life in prison – he emerged from custody more calm than when he entered.
His time in detention, he said, afforded him time to contemplate whether he would have made the same decisions in life if he knew they would lead to the charges he now faces.
He concluded that character is destiny, a realization that came with a sense of divine blessing. “It’s like God telling me, ‘Don’t fear. Just do what you do. I am with you,’” said Mr. Lai, a practising Catholic.
It was a feeling, he said, substantiated by the reaction to his arrest: the raucous group that gathered outside a police station after midnight to wish him well upon his release Wednesday; the crowds who have bought hundreds of thousands of copies a day this week of Apple Daily; the investors who have massively elevated Next Digital share prices.
“It’s just reaffirmed that whatever I have done wrong in the past, at least what I am doing now is right,” he said. “And it’s almost a message that: ‘Let’s go on.’”
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Vietnam health ministry to buy Russian COVID-19 vaccine -state media – The Journal Pioneer
By Phuong Nguyen
HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has registered to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine, state television reported on Friday, as it fights a new outbreak after going several months with no local cases.
Russia said on Wednesday that it would roll out the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine within two weeks, rejecting the concerns of experts who said it should not have been approved before completing large-scale trials.
“In the meantime, Vietnam will still continue developing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine,” state broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) said, citing the Ministry of Health.
Vietnam has signed up for 50-150 million doses of the vaccine, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. Some will be a “donation” from Russia, Tuoi Tre said, with Vietnam paying for the rest.
The ministry did not say when it expected to receive the vaccine, or how much it would cost. Last month, the ministry said Vietnam would have a home-grown vaccine available by the end of 2021.
Vietnam was lauded for suppressing an earlier outbreak contagion through aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantining, but it is now racing to control infections in multiple locations linked to the popular tourist city of Danang, where a new outbreak was detected on July 25.
Vietnam has reported a total of 911 infections, with 21 deaths. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said the risk of wider contagion is very high, and that the next few days are critical.
The head of Vietnam’s coronavirus taskforce, Vu Duc Dam, said on Friday that Vietnam now had no choice but to “live safely with the virus”.
“We are implementing the anti-virus measures of a poor country, so everyone has to stay alert and know how to protect themselves from the virus,” Dam said, according to state media.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson and Kevin Liffey)
Plesac 'disgusted' with how media portrayed him after breaking protocol – theScore
Plesac aired his grievances during a six-and-a-half minute video posted to his Instagram account Thursday, in which he also explained what happened in Chicago.
“The media, really, is terrible, man,” Plesac said. “They do some evil things to create stories and to make things sound better … Truthfully, I’m disgusted with the way the media’s handled this whole situation surrounding our team, and this is why, based on my feelings, I want to get on here and express the truth to you guys.”
According to Plesac, he and teammate Mike Clevinger went out for dinner with a group of friends following his start against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on Aug. 8. After dinner, they went back to the home of one of his friends, where the group hung out for the evening and “opened up baseball cards.”
The 25-year-old said he and Clevinger weren’t with more than eight people at any time last Saturday, putting them in line with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for safe social gatherings (the CDC recommends no more than 10 people gather together at one time).
“So (the) media’s portraying me and my best friend and teammate to be malicious with our actions,” Plesac said. “(I’m) not justifying what we did, because we left the hotel – and according to the new (MLB) rules we weren’t supposed to leave – but according to the CDC, and these guidelines with corona, we were practicing safe practices in a small group with people who we know have been tested.”
Plesac admitted to returning to the hotel after curfew, where he and Clevinger were seen by MLB. The Indians had Plesac quarantine for three days as a precaution, and he took a car service from Chicago back to Cleveland instead of flying on the charter. Clevinger flew home with the team; it was only discovered later that he also went out that night.
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