Turkey: Another blocking order against YouTube
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For the forth time in two years, on 20 November 2008, the Turkish authorities blocked access to YouTube asserting that certain content posted on the site was disrespectful to Kemal Mustafa Atatürk, the Turkish Republic's founder, or supported the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey is the only country in the world banning YouTube.
"We have said it before and we say it again now - blocking access to YouTube is wrong. It has been blocked since 5 May, as a result of an earlier court order, and the obstinacy shown by the authorities is unacceptable. Denying Turkish citizens access to this file-sharing site violates freedom of information" said Reporters Without Borders.
The Cubuk magistrate court issued the latest blocking order on the basis of article 162 of the criminal procedure law and of Law 5651 on crimes and offences committed online which has been in force since November 2007 and which obliges ISPs to block access to websites declared illegal. According to this law, a public prosecutor may ban access to a website within 24 hours if the content is considered "liable to incite suicide, paedophilia, drug usage, obscenity or prostitution" or if it "contradicts the law of Atatürk."
YouTube is not the only site banned by the Turkish authorities. Since 2007, based on the same laws, about 1 000 websites which have been blocked by Turkey's Telecommunications Directorate. Besides YouTube, recently, nacizanebilgo.com, the Turkish popular dictionary website has also been made inaccessible following a complaint from religious leader Adnan Oktar on the grounds that the site editors allowed Internet users to post "insulting" terms on him. Lawsuits initiated by Oktar have resulted in the blocking of at least 61 websites. Other banned websites include that of a teachers' trade union and the site of the British biologist Richard Dawkins.
"Banning YouTube, Google's blogging site, the websites of a teachers' trade union, Richard Dawkins and even a Turkish dictionary stands alongside more than 40 cases against writers and journalists even since the reform of the so-called anti-Turkishness article of the penal code," stated Richard Howitt, the vice president of the European Parliament's Human Rights Sub-Committee.
Howitt, who is a supporter of Turkey's becoming an EU member, met Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin on 27 November in Ankara and asked him to overturn the decision of banning the sites, in the interests of free speech, warning about the implications of such actions upon Turkey's EU adhering process. "As a modern country looking forward to European Union membership, Turkey should be embracing new communications rather than putting itself in the same bracket as some of the world's pariah states," he said.
According to Kerem Altiparmak and Yaman Akdeniz, authors of the book "Restricted Access", Internet restrictions are against European Union standards and Turkey could face charges at the European Courts of Human Rights for violating the freedom of expression. The authors argue that Turkey's current Internet regulations, besides being procedurally flawed, are designed to censor political speech: "Clearly the current regime, through its procedural and substantive deficiencies, is designed to censor and silence speech. Its impacts are wide, affecting not only the freedom of speech but also the right to privacy and fair trial. It has been reported that prosecutors have even demanded that politicians widen the scope of the law to include insults, defamation and terrorism. This antiquated approach remains unacceptable in a democratic society."
The authors also point out the fact that blocking a site is also a totally inefficient method to combat illegal content: "Blocking as a preventative policy measure has been explicitly dismissed within the context of terrorist use of the Internet at the level of the European Union. Furthermore, circumvention technologies are widely available, and the filtering and blocking mechanisms and methods currently used in Turkey are easy to circumvent even for inexperienced Internet users." One argument in favour of this is that even the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stated to the press that, despite the ban, he could access YouTube and even provided the information of how to do it.
MEP urges turkey to end YouTube ban (28.11.2008)
YouTube censored yet again by another court order blocking access
European parliamentarians urge Turkey to remove YouTube ban (1.12.2008)
Turkey could face charges at European court over restrictions (30.11.2008)
Ban on YouTube proves virtual (1.12.2008)
EDRigram - YouTube blocked once more in Turkey (30.01.2008)