YouTube banned in Turkey once again

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Screenshot of the message YouTube visitors in Turkey found.

The popular video website YouTube has been blocked in Turkey once more. Several sources quote complaints against a video that insults Atatürk, founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, as the reason for the block. On Friday, internet users in Turkey found the website replaced by a notice saying:

Access to this web site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2008/55 of T.R. Ankara 12th Criminal Court of Peace.

A Turkish court issued a similar order in March last year, after a row between Turkish and Greek users escalated and resulted in insults of Atatürk, a serious offense in Turkey. Internet service providers such as Türk Telekom (the largest and formerly state-owned ISP) can use the domain name system to put the ban into effect.

At the moment, it remains unclear which videos or comments exactly are to blame. Some media sources say that the video compared Atatürk with a monkey. This led some YouTube users to suspect that a video entitled 'ataturk was a gay and a monkey turkey turkiye turks' led to the block. This video was added on November 7, 2007, and is a series of images with Atatürk's face on monkeys, homosexuals, obese individuals and several pictures of Borat. The uploader of the video, known as gaymal45, has several other videos which mock Prime Minister Erdogan and President Abdullah Gül.

Under article 301 of the Turkish penal code, public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic of Turkey, Atatürk, and other national symbols, is punishable by imprisonment. The article received a lot of attention because it resulted in the prosecution of intellectuals like Literature Nobel Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk and murdered journalist Hrant Dink.

It is also unclear how long the ban would last. The ban in March was lifted after 3 days, when YouTube sent evidence to the Turkish prosecutor that the video had been removed.

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