400 Detained in Turkey for Coronavirus Social Media Posts

Officials say the state inspected more than 6,000 social media accounts that were sharing material deemed 'false and provocative'

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A face-masked man walks past Haghia Sophia Museum amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Istanbul, March 21, 2020.
A face-masked man walks past Haghia Sophia Museum amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Istanbul, March 21, 2020. Credit: Emrah Gurel/AP

Turkey has detained 402 people in the past 42 days for allegedly sharing “false and provocative” social media postings concerning the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Monday.

An Interior Ministry statement said officials have inspected more than 6,000 social media accounts and the 402 suspects were among a total of 855 account-holders sought by authorities for sharing posts deemed to be “provocative.”

A ministry official said the social media users were detained for allegedly attempting to “cause panic” over the coronavirus pandemic with posts that, among other things, accuse the government of not doing enough to curb the outbreak or of lying about the numbers of deaths or infections.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

Meanwhile, Turkey dispatched an air ambulance and repatriated a Turkish citizen who tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden but allegedly failed to receive any treatment there.

Emrullah Gulusken, 47, was evacuated from his home in Malmo on Sunday after his daughter, Leyla, pleaded for help on social media. She said her father was sent back home despite his worsening condition, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Gulusken and his three of his children were flown to Ankara where they were hospitalized, the agency reported. Swedish authorities haven’t commented on the case.

“Dear Leyla, we have heard your voice... Our air ambulance is taking off at 6 a.m., we are coming to Sweden,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Sunday morning. “Our hospital, our doctors are ready waiting for your father.”

Turkey has repatriated around 40,000 nationals from 75 countries since the start of the outbreak in March, according to Foreign Ministry figures.

The country has reported a total of 2,805 deaths and 110,130 confirmed infections. It ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University, but experts believe the actual toll of the pandemic is higher than the tally.

Nearly 890,000 people have been tested in Turkey so far.

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