- Turkish authorities arrested YouTubers after they interviewed people on the street, The Independent reported.
- The citizen journalists asked people how the country's current economic situation impacts their lives.
- One day earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called social media a threat to democracy.
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Three YouTube personalities were arrested on Sunday in Turkey's Antalya province after asking strangers about their economic concerns as the value of the country's currency continues to fall, The Independent reported.
In tweets, the YouTubers said they were interviewing people on the streets to make their voices heard amid the financial crisis. The Turkish lira dropped 40% since September and has hit an all-time low, The Financial Times reported on Monday.
YouTuber Hasan Köksoy, who runs the YouTube channel Kendine Muhabir (which translates to Self Correspondent), said in a tweet translated to English that he was taken out of his bed "like a terrorist" and arrested "for handing a microphone to the public."
Arif Kocabiyik and Turan Kural were also arrested, according to the local news outlet Turkey Purge, which monitors human rights abuses in the country. On their respective YouTube channels, the men have been interviewing people about the nation's economy and its impact on their finances. A fourth YouTuber, Mehmet Koyuncu, tweeted that he was not arrested but that police contacted him.
Turkey Purge reported the YouTubers were accused of "denigrating the state and government."
Erol Onderoglu, Turkey's representative for Reporters Sans Frontieres, an organisation that promotes the right to freedom of information, told The Independent that while YouTubers and independent journalists could use some training on how to release interviews without breaking local rules, "there is a clear public benefit to hear about people's concerns from the street."
In a recent speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called social media one of the "main sources of threats to today's democracy" and said he would be cracking down on internet media to "fight disinformation and propaganda," with sentences of up to five years in prison, Al Jazeera reported.
Critics say this could tighten restrictions on free speech. Human rights organisation Freedom House's 2021 Freedom on the Net report, which analyses internet freedom worldwide, labeled Turkey as "not free," noting widespread filtering or removal of online content that was critical of the government.
According to the Stockholm Center for Press Freedom, 72 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey and 89 are awaiting trial.
Köksoy, Kocabiyik, and Kural have been released, according to the Independent, but are under house arrest.
Muhabir live-streamed on YouTube on Monday. Auto-translated subtitles appear to show him saying his house was raided and his family's phones and computers were taken away.
Koyuncu said in a tweet translated to English that he and his fellow journalists were trying "to make the voice of the people on the street heard in the palace."
"WE WILL NOT BE SILENT!" he continued. "We will continue to talk for those who spend the night hungry!"
A communications representative for the Turkish government could not immediately be reached.