Turkey lifts YouTube ban


Turkish internet users can access the popular video site again, now that an offensive video has been removed and a court ban lifted.

By Ahmet Gormez for Southeast European Times in Ankara – 12/03/07


Turkish internet users logging into YouTube saw this error message. [Ahmet Gormez]

Following a brief ban imposed by an Istanbul court, YouTube can again be accessed by Turkish internet users. Ahter Kutadgu, head of corporate communications for Turk Telekom, said at a press conference Friday (March 9th) that a Turkish court has told his company the restrictions have been lifted.

The popular video website had been blocked since a court ruling Wednesday. Internet providers were prohibited from allowing access because the site carried videos insulting the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Under Turkish law, it is forbidden to "insult Turkishness" or to slander Ataturk, whose name means "Father of the Turks".

Turkish web users who tried to visit the site on Wednesday and Thursday instead saw a message telling them that access was suspended "in accordance with decision No: 2007/384 dated 06.03.2007 of the İstanbul First Criminal Peace Court".

The video provoking the ban had been posted to the site by a Greek. It was a computer animation that used highly explicit language and depicted Ataturk as gay.

The animation was the latest salvo in what some are terming a "virtual war" among Greek and Turkish YouTube users, with several cases of videos being posted with the apparent intention of insulting or angering the other side.

Other examples have included footage of Turkish and Greek F-16s engaged in a dogfight, and the posting of the final episode of the TV show "Survivor: Turkey and Greece," which ended with the Turkish competitor's victory over his Greek rival.

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YouTube is one of the most popular sites among internet users worldwide, with almost 70 million visitors each day. In its ruling to ban the site, the Istanbul court said it would restore access after confirmation that the video had been removed.

"We are not in the position of saying that what YouTube did was an insult, that it was right or wrong. A court decision was proposed to us, and we are doing what that court decision says," Turk Telekom Chairman Paul Doany said after the ban was imposed.

"The internet is an international phenomenon, and while technology can bring great opportunity and access to information globally, it can also present new and unique cultural challenges," YouTube said in a statement after the ban was imposed. "We respect the authorities in Turkey and are committed to working with them to resolve this. We should note, however, that the video in question is no longer on the site."

The incident has sparked different reactions in Turkey. "If they insult us, than we should block access to the site, in order to have a financial effect," one user said. Others, however, disagreed, saying the move amounted to censorship.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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