Turkish police announced on Saturday that 12 people had been identified as having posted “hatred-inciting and provocative” content on social media about Friday’s explosion in a coal mine in Amasra in the northern province of Bartın.
Legal procedures have been triggered for 12 “account administrators”, the Police General Directorate said in a statement, as part of “24/7 virtual patrol activity to fight crime and criminals”.
“I would like to state once again how important it is that our citizens do not heed disinformation-laden posts on this grievous accident, and that they pay attention to statements by our ministers in the area and by official bodies,” Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said in a tweet.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself also tweeted a warning against “heeding bad-faith posts that include provocation and disinformation”.
While no official reason was made public for the 12 people involved, the Turkish Hard Coal Authority (TTK) issued a statement late on Friday night, condemning disinformation.
“A need arose to issue a clarification because of the false expressions in news stories published on some media,” TTK said in a statement. “All establishments within our institution strictly adhere to mining workplace health and safety rules.”
Several news outlets picked up an opposition MP from the Black Sea region’s comments on Friday, backed up by a 2019 report by Turkey’s Court of Accounts. In the report, the top supervisor body warned of increased risk of firedamp explosions in the mine in question due to high concentrations of methane in the ore.
The Court of Accounts “says the risk of gas inrush and firedamp explosions increase due to high concentrations of gas in the active veins”, Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Deniz Yavuzyılmaz said.
“News stories on the matter present the issue as high concentrations of methane gas detected in the ambient air. This is completely false. Air circulation in the mine and the methane in the composition of the coal are different matters. As such, this does not affect workplace safety,” the TTK continued.
“It is necessary that only statements from official institutions are heeded, and provocative and disinformation-riddled content should be disregarded,” Erdoğan said in a tweet.
The Turkish parliament passed a law against disinformation on Thursday, introducing up to three years in prison for deliberate dissemination of what it called fake news, without defining what the term entails. Critics of the law say it will be used to stifle further freedom of expression and press freedom in the country, while the Council of Europe warned of a “chilling effect” due to the threat of jailtime.