Reporters Without Borders condemns the growing repercussions of Turkey’s censorship of YouTube, the video-sharing service owned by Google. Turkish Internet users have been having problems accessing Google services such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords and Google Docs since 4 June, when the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB) reported that it had asked Internet Service Providers to block additional YouTube-linked IP addresses.
The Turkish authorities have been blocking access to YouTube in Turkey since May 2008 because of videos that are said to insult the Turkish republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
“It is time the Turkish authorities demonstrated their commitment to free expression by putting an end to the censorship that affects thousands of websites in Turkey and by overhauling Law 5651 on the Internet, which allows this sort of mass blocking of sites,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The censorship of YouTube in particular seems to be an archaic form of control, one that prevents Turks from accessing Web 2.0’s potential,” the press freedom organisation added. “This trend has been accentuated by the current problems in accessing other services provided by Google, which are widely used by Turkish Internet users.”
In a statement issued on 4 June, Google said: “We have received reports that some Google applications cannot be accessed in Turkey. The difficulty (...) appears to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube. We are working to get our services back up as soon as possible.”
Several Turkish newspapers have meanwhile quoted President Abdullah Gül as saying he does not support Internet censorship in Turkey. “I do not want Turkey to be included among the countries that ban YouTube and prevent access to Google,” he said. “If there are problems due to our legislation, there should be ways to overcome that.”
The Association of Turkish Journalists also condemned the measures restricting access to certain Google services, which were not based on “any judicial decision,” it said.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) estimates that around 3,700 websites are currently “blocked for arbitrary and political reasons” in Turkey. They include many foreign websites, sites targeted at Turkey’s Kurdish minority, and gay community sites.
Under article 8 of Law 5651, all the authorities need in order to block a website is “sufficient evidence” of content that falls into any of the following eight categories: inciting suicide, sexual exploitation and abuse of children, facilitation of drug use, provision of substances dangerous for the health, obscenity, online betting and “crimes against Atatürk.” In practice, it is the last one that is the most problematic.
In its report on “Enemies of the Internet,” issued last March, Reporters Without Borders added Turkey to the list of “countries under surveillance.”