/ 3 November 2010

Turkey reinstates YouTube ban

Turkey has reinstated a ban on YouTube just days after lifting it, state agency Anatolian said, as a dispute continued over the video-sharing website’s refusal to remove content deemed illegal in the EU candidate country.

Access to YouTube, a unit of Google, has been banned by the Turkish government for more than two years after users posted videos Turkey says are insulting to the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

A court on Saturday lifted the ban, which has drawn widespread criticism of Ankara’s restrictive internet laws, after a German-based firm at the request of Turkish authorities removed the videos by using an automated copyright system designed by Google to protect copyrighted material.

YouTube later said it had reinstated the videos, arguing such videos did not violate users’ copyright.

But in the latest twist, a court in Ankara late on Tuesday ordered the closure of the website again — this time for refusing to remove a secretly taped video showing the former chairperson of the opposition in a bedroom with an aide.

Turks attempting to directly access YouTube on Wednesday encountered again a screen with a message saying YouTube was blocked by Turkey’s Telecommunication Regulator (TIB).

Officials at TIB could not be reached for comment. Google representatives in Turkey said they were checking the reports.

Human rights groups and media watchdog associations have long urged European Union membership candidate Turkey to reform its internet laws. Turkey has cited offences including child pornography, insulting Ataturk and encouraging suicide as justification for blocking websites.

In June, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Turkey’s internet law had been expanded to bar access to more than 5 000 sites. The YouTube ban has attracted particular criticism, and even President Abdullah Gul has used his Twitter page to condemn it, urging authorities to find a solution.

Google’s legal chief has called for pressure on governments that censor the internet, citing China and Turkey, arguing that their blocking access to websites not only violates human rights but unfairly restrains US trade. – Reuters