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Turkey5 May 2009

YouTube completes a year of being blocked in Turkey

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders condemns the fact the video-sharing website YouTube has been inaccessible in Turkey for the past 12 months. Access has not been restored since it was blocked exactly one year ago today as a result of three orders issued by Ankara magistrate courts without any specific reason being given.

“The blocking of YouTube has gone on long enough,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the Turkish authorities to amend their legislation regulating Internet use instead of than arbitrarily censoring content. Such behaviour is unworthy of a country that claims to be democratic and makes us very concerned for the future of the Internet in Turkey. We call for the revision of the three court orders that led to this unwarranted blocking.”

Pointing out that access to Dailymotion, Myspace and Geocities has also been banned in Turkey, the head of Turkey’s Association of Internet Technologies (INED), Mustafa Akgul, said: “We need to get away from this instinctive tendency to censor, which threatens the Internet as a space for expression.”

Akgul added: “In response to complaints about insults or copyright violations or other matters, a court anywhere in Turkey can suspend access to a website as a preventive measure, without referring to an expert and without giving the website a chance to defend itself (...) An Internet filtering mechanism could be established, but the state should leave this to the country’s citizens. Members of civil society can have a place in this process.”

An Ankara magistrate court issued orders on 24 and 30 April 2008 for the blocking of YouTube without giving its grounds for these decisions. Another Ankara magistrate court issued a similar order on 5 May 2008.

Law 5651 on “the organisation of online publications and combating offences committed by means of such publications,” in force since November 2007, enables prosecutors to block access to websites within 24 hours if their content is deemed liable to incite suicide, paedophilia, drug usage, obscenity or prostitution or violate a law forbidding any attacks on the memory of the Turkish republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

YouTube said its editors withdrew the videos that appear to have prompted these court decisions but the site has continued to be inaccessible. The current blocking is YouTube’s fourth in Turkey since early 2007.

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