Associations, activists speak out against latest YouTube ban

Associations, activists speak out against latest YouTube ban: “Associations, activists speak out against latest YouTube ban
Frequent bans on access to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube have frustrated several associations and activists advocating freedom of speech and expression.”

Turkey once again blocked access to YouTube yesterday. An Ankara court decided to ban access to the site in response to videos posted on the Web site deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. There has been no immediate comment from YouTube.

Several associations and activists consider the ban “censorship” of people’s right to access Internet resources and of media freedom in Turkey.

Internet Technologies Association (İTD) President Mustafa Akgül slammed the frequent bans and said they are a result of a lack of communication and dialogue between Turkey’s courts and YouTube management.

“YouTube officials say they are ready to cooperate with Turkish courts and authorities to ensure Turkish users’ access to the popular Web site. But Turkish officials seem reluctant to cooperate with YouTube on the matter for whatever reason. Turkish courts block access to this Web site without informing YouTube management of videos considered problematic. I don’t know why they refrain from cooperating with YouTube. The courts only evaluate complaints from Turkish users about videos deemed insulting to some values to which the Turkish nation attaches great importance and block access to the site,” he noted in a phone interview with Today’s Zaman.

A representative from the Young Civilians — a Turkish nongovernmental organization known for its use of sarcasm in protests — stated Turkey would not gain anything from such bans. “Turkey prohibits many types of statements and expressions that go out of the framework of what is taught about Atatürk. Videos that lead to a YouTube access ban do not have to insult Atatürk. If these videos really are defamatory, then our officials should get in touch with YouTube management. If such steps are taken, I am sure these videos will be removed within a few days. There is no need for such bans,” remarked Turgay Oğur.

Hülya Şekerci, the head of the Freedom Association (Özgür-Der), on the other hand, said the bans have turned into black humor. “Advocates of such bans disregard freedom of the media in Turkey. They must be afraid of the Turkish nation having access to more information on certain issues. Can you believe that people residing abroad have access to YouTube and our people do not? This is really tragicomic,” she noted in a statement sent to Today’s Zaman.

Şekerci also said her association is against the ban and considers it an obstacle before the freedom of speech. She called on Turkish officials to give up maintaining such pro-ban stances.

İTD’s Akgül likened the YouTube ban to closing down a big library because of a single book. “Can you imagine banning a famous Web site over a single video? There are tens of thousands of videos on that site. Yet, the Turkish society is punished because of a few videos; the ban is a punishment for Turks. Such bans are a product of a pro-ban mindset. It is possible to ban access to certain videos instead of banning the whole Web site, but it necessitates a bit of work and some investment,” he said.

Akgül also noted any Turkish court may block access to any Web site for several reasons. “A new law on Internet crimes went into effect last year to prevent the spread of cyber crimes and granted local courts the right to block access to Web sites. Thus, courts feel free to block any Web site for any reason. This is why YouTube is banned so easily in our country,” he stated.

The Prime Ministry took action against Internet crimes and published regulations on the management and control of Internet publications in the Official Gazette in early December 2007.

Under the new regulations, Internet crimes are punishable by a fine of up to YTL 50,000 and with a prison term of up to three years. According to the regulations, Internet publications must respect the dignity and the fundamental rights and freedoms of other people. The law criminalizes the use of the Internet for the purposes of gambling, prostitution and the sale of drugs.

“Banning a Web site will bring no good to Turkey. Our officials should realize this fact. There are various Web sites that include videos that insult Atatürk or the Turkish Republic, but because YouTube is the most popular one amongst them, it has been banned. If you ask me, the government should educate prosecutors and judges about the Internet so that Turkey has a better and higher-quality use of the Internet. A committee of experts should be established to deal with such Web sites and videos. In this way, we can protect Turkey’s prestige from being undermined,” added Akgül.