Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to ban Facebook and YouTube in Turkey in an attempt to stop political foes anonymously posting audio recordings purportedly exposing corruption and other malpractices in his inner circle.
In the latest recording, released on YouTube late Thursday, Erdogan is purportedly heard berating a newspaper owner over the telephone about an article and suggesting the journalists be sacked, in comments that will further stoke concerns over media freedom and Erdogan's authoritarian style of leadership.
Erdogan, who rejects any accusations of corruption, blames U.S.-based Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally, for the wiretaps which he says have been "fabricated". Gulen, who denies any involvement, has many followers in Turkey, especially in the police and judiciary.
"We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook," Erdogan said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster ATV aired late on Thursday.
"We will take the necessary steps in the strongest way," he said, adding that these would come after municipal elections in Turkey set for March 30.
Asked if a ban on these sites could be included among the planned measures, he said: "Included, because these people or institutions encourage every kind of immorality and espionage for their own ends."
There was no immediate reaction from Facebook or YouTube.
Turkey banned YouTube for more than two years until 2010 after users posted videos the government deemed insulting to the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Turkey's communications minister appeared to defend the putative bans.
"We see insults against a country's prime minister and president, the uploading of illegal videos - and we're supposed to be at ease with this? ... Whatever is a crime in the real world is also a crime in the virtual world," the Dogan news agency quoted Lutfu Elvan as saying on Friday.
Turkey recently tightened government control of the Internet saying it wanted to defend privacy. Erdogan's critics said the new law was a further bid to hush up allegations of high-level graft flooding social media and video sharing sites.
Erdogan says the postings are part of a campaign to discredit him and wreck his government, which has presided over more than a decade of strong economic growth and rising living standards in NATO-member Turkey.
He says fragments of tapped conversations have been fitted together in a 'montage' giving a false and misleading impression of their content.
Five more recordings have appeared on YouTube this week