Stevie Martin | Staff Writer | Thursday, 26 February 2015

Former Miss Turkey Might Go To Prison For Insulting The President

The Debrief: Turkey cracks down on what you're allowed to post on social media, in this latest case...

Merve Büyüksaraç, an industrial designer and writer who also won the Miss Turkey title in 2006, is facing up to two years in prison for an Instagram post that prosecutors claim ‘insulted’ the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to her lawyer.

Merve admitted she might have quoted the satirical poem, The Poem of The Chief (also translates as The Master’s Poem) – thought to be from Uykusuz, a satirical magazine – but deleted it because a friend warned her she could have committed a crime.

‘I don’t precisely recall the content I have shared on my Instagram account. However, I might have taken excerpts from Twitter, other social media websites or the cartoon magazine Uykusuz,’ the 26-year-old said.

‘I did not personally adapt the poem titled The Poem of the Chief. I shared it because it was funny to me. I did not intend to insult Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.’ 

Merve was detained in January, and now a court in Istanbul is set to decide whether to continue with the case, according to Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily News.

It’s just one of a number of cases that sees the Turkish government focusing on social media – last December a 16-year-old was arrested for ‘insulting’ the president, and a report from Twitter earlier this month revealed that Turkey makes more content removal requests than any other country.

Critics believe it’s a move towards authoritarian rule – a complete lack of free speech – which the Merve case seems to illustrate. Somewhat terrifyingly. 

On the contrary, the prosecution have argued that her Instagram post doesn’t demonstrate freedom of speech, but is just an outright insult. Merve responded: ‘I shared it because I found it funny. I had no intention of insulting [Erdoğan]. 

Decisions are currently being made as to whether the case will continue, and whether a worrying precedent will be set in Turkey in terms of social media and what people can and cannot post online. 

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Tags: Turkey