Zaman: Internet bans pit Turkey against freedom of speech

Internet bans pit Turkey against freedom of speech: “Internet bans pit Turkey against freedom of speech
There are currently 853 Web sites banned in Turkey, including video-sharing site YouTube and dailymotion.com, placing Turkey in the league of countries such as China and Saudi Arabia, famous for restricting freedom of speech.”

Web sites are most often banned on grounds that they insult the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, contain vulgarity, enable gambling or promote suicide. Many sites have also been banned for crimes covered under the Internet Security Law. But a number of sites are banned for no apparent reason. The latest Web site to be banned was gundemonline.com, which was blocked by Ankara’s 11th High Criminal Court without any justification.

Other countries known to frequently ban Web sites include China, Iran, Armenia, Tunisia, Indonesia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Sites protest bans

A campaign has been initiated by elmaaltshift.com to protest these bans. To date 441 Web sites — including some of the most popular sites in the country, such as online English-Turkish dictionary zargan.com, sinema.com and forzabesiktas.com — are supporting the campaign.

Earlier this week the sites supporting the campaign “banned” themselves by putting up front pages that read “Access is denied,” in imitation of what happens when sites are blocked by courts.

Getting around the bans

The bans have increased the popularity of Web sites, such as ktunnel.com and its rival, vtunnel.com, that allow Turkish users to access banned sites. According to data from Web information company alexa.com, ktunnel.com currently ranks 37th on the list of most-visited sites in Turkey, while vtunnel.com is at the 41st spot.

Data at alexa.com also shows that despite the ongoing ban, YouTube ranks 17th on the list of popular Web sites in Turkey, showing that Turkish Internet users still find other ways to access the site.

23 August 2008, Saturday
TODAY’S ZAMAN İSTANBUL

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