Turkish Court Blocks Access to YouTube

Posted on March 7, 2007

The Times Online and the BBC are reporting that an Instanbul court has blocked access to YouTube because it claims a video on YouTube offends Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding president of the Turkish Republic. It is illegal in Turkey to insult Ataturk or "turkishness."

The court order was issued yesterday and most internet users logging onto the site in Turkey are met with a holding page with a Turkish message, which translates as: "Access to this site has been denied by court order ! ..."

Greek and Turkish YouTube users have been trading video insults over the past few months, attracting much coverage in the Turkish press. Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality.

It is illegal to criticise either Ataturk or Turkishness in Turkey and the prosecutor's office in Istanbul acted despite YouTube's agreement to take down the offending videos.

The BBC says users trying to visit www.youtube.com in Turkey get the following message: "Access to www.youtube.com site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/384 dated 06.03.2007 of Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court."

Erkan Saka at Metroblogging Instanbul says most Turkish citizens see Atatürk as a sacred figure but questions the necessity of blocking a whole website for a single video.

The video is ugly. It insults the founder of the Republic. Like it or not, Atatürk is a sacred figure for most of Turkish citizens. And an insulting video would trigger such a popular reaction. However, would it be necessary to legally stop the access to Youtube? In Brazil, a legal step was taken recently. But compared to this one, it is a minor intervention. In terms of net regulation, Turkey is now in league with China, Iran and some other countries in the same line....
Turkey is trying to join the European Union but the European Union does have an issue with Article 301, the law that forbids people from insulting turkishness. YouTube is far from the first creative outlet to run into problems with the law. Nobel prize winning author Orhan Pamuk almost went to jail for "insulting Turkishness."

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