Istanbul: Turkey shut down access to YouTube after a court said Google Inc.’s video-sharing Website had insulted the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
An Istanbul court ruled in favour of prosecutor Nurten Altinok’s petition against YouTube for showing images of Ataturk and a Turkish flag with obscenities in English, Vatan newspaper said. Altinok was unavailable for comment.
Turk Telekomunikasyon AS, the phone monopoly that runs the nation’s Internet infrastructure, barred access to YouTube after receiving a legal order, chief executive officer Paul Doany told reporters here. Human-rights activists said the decision violated freedom of expression.
“This case reflects the general problem that Turkish judges don’t protect speech but instead are used to limit expression,” said Yusuf Alatas, head of the Human Rights Association in Turkey. “The judiciary acts as a censor.”
The European Union has said Turkey’s restrictions on free speech could prevent it from making progress on its bid to join the bloc.
The government has refused to change a law that has been used to prosecute dozens of academics, activists and writers for “insulting the national identity”. Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk was tried and acquitted under those charges last year. Ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed on 19 January by a nationalist who said he murdered Dink for his views, according to the police.
“Internet freedom in particular in Turkey is not at the levels it should be,” said Savas Unsal, chief executive officer of Superonline, an Internet service provider. “It’s bad to obstruct a new technology because you can’t control” content.
“It’s a dangerous approach to block the site, the same way you can’t ban the Internet,” he said.
YouTube has run afoul of courts in other countries as well. A Brazilian court in January ordered YouTube to remove a video of a Merrill Lynch & Co. banker having sex on a Spanish beach with an ex-girlfriend of soccer star Ronaldo.