Turkey warns media against spreading ‘disinformation’ on forest fire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief communications officer warned the nation’s press against using unofficial sources and social media to report on a forest fire raging near a top tourist resort on the Mediterranean coast.

Fahrettin Altun said that the Department for Combatting Cybercrime was carrying out a technical investigation about social media posts that caused “information pollution”.

“Whatever needs to be done within the framework of the law will be done concerning those who adversely affect the morale and motivation of our heroes in the field,” he said on Twitter. “The statements and information made by relevant ministers and other official institutions and authorities should be taken as the basis.”

Turkey’s government has sparked concerns and warnings among free speech advocates, including top human rights groups, after it presented a law to parliament that will punish those found guilty by the courts of spreading so-called misinformation on social media with jail sentences.

“Disinformation content on social media should not be respected,” Altun said.

The fire broke out in a forested area near the resort of Marmaris on Tuesday evening and began to spread due to the effect of the wind, the Diken news website and other media reported on Wednesday.

Erdoğan's government was subject to severe criticism on social media and in the opposition media last year after a series of forest fires swept along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. The blazes exposed the country’s lack of fire fighting assets, including planes and helicopters, despite record levels of economic growth over the past decade.

Reinforcement teams from the surrounding provinces were sent to the Marmaris region to extinguish the fire, while aerial interventions, which were stopped at night, resumed this morning, Diken said. The fire has been largely brought under control with the help of 14 planes and 20 helicopters, Agriculture Minister Vahit Kirişci said.

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