Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan. © Adem Altan / AFP
Ankara’s office has reportedly emailed a number of Turkish organisations in the European country, urging their employees to warn the consulate of any “insulting” messages received via personal online accounts.
According to the letter shared on Twitter, it said:
“To whom it may concern,
If you or the employees working in your NGO or their relatives or the people around you received messages from people who are insulting our president, the Turkish nation or Turkey in general in to your mailboxes or social media accounts, we would kindly ask you to send the names and the quotes that they put to the mail address of our Rotterdam Consulate General.”
The campaign is “aimed against everything that’s being shared on Twitter, Facebook and even in private emails,” Dutch freelance journalist and author Frederike Geerdink told RT, adding that Ankara’s move has “immediately caused big discussion in Holland.”
“Politicians in Holland worry, they say this is what in Holland is called ‘the long arm of Ankara,’ meaning that the government in Ankara tries to get a grip on their diaspora communities” in various European countries, including Germany, Britain, Belgium, and now in the Netherlands, Geerdink said.
“They try to influence how Dutch Turks behave,” she added, saying that the European officials “will talk with the Consulate about this and express their worries.” There will be a debate on the matter in the parliament as well, the journalist told RT.
On Wednesday, the Dutch government announced its plans to scrap legislation which makes insulting a friendly head of state a criminal offense, Dutch News reported.
Following the Consulate’s call, Ankara’s consul should be called to The Hague to explain it, the Dutch news source reported, citing an MP from the country’s right-wing VNL party. “Turkey needs to be reminded of the right to freedom of speech,” Joram van Klaveren was quoted as saying.
There has been no official comment from the Turkish Consulate. When it was approached by Dutch journalists asking as of what the information the officials were aiming to receive would be used for, “the Consulate played it down saying there is not much to worry about, [as they] only want to make an inventory of what is being said in Holland,” Geerdink told RT.
While the state of freedom of speech and expression in Turkey has been questioned by a number of international organizations and governments in recent months, Ankara also aims to control of what’s being said about its president in other countries. Recently, Turkey reportedly tried to pressurize Germany into removing a satirical clip aired by a German broadcaster criticizing President Erdogan. In a separate episode, the Turkish leader has submitted a personal complaint against another German comedian for libel.