Court issues YouTube block in Turkey

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Flag of Turkey.

A court in Istanbul has issued an order to block all access to YouTube in Turkey, after a series of insults between Greek and Turkish users of the site escalated. The largest internet provider and privatised state company, Türk Telekom, has put the order into effect, while some smaller internet providers still allow access to the site.

Internet users accessing via Turk Telecom get a message in Turkish saying "Access to this site has been denied by court order! ..." and in Turkish and English "Access to site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/384 dated 06.03.2007 of Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court."

The row between Turkish and Greek YouTube users started when Greek videos claimed that Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish state, and the Turkish people, were homosexual. There were also profanities on the Turkish flag. A Turkish user responded saying that Greece was the birth place of homosexuality. The dispute received a lot of attention in the Turkish media, which they labelled a "virtual war".

YouTube agreed to take down the offending videos, but nonetheless the prosecutor in Istanbul got a court order, based on charges of insulting Atatürk, which is illegal in Turkey. YouTube responded that it had taken down the videos and was cooperating with the government, adding that "While technology can bring great opportunity and access to information globally, it can also present new and unique cultural challenges."

Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes insulting Turkishness a crime in Turkey, 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.

The European Commission has shown concern over the law article, and Turkey has pledged to revise it. Turkey wants to join the European Union but the negotiations have not been without obstacles so far, for example in the field of freedom of expression.