Groups say Web site bans hurt Turkey’s image

Groups say Web site bans hurt Turkey’s image

Several Turkish nongovernmental organizations advocating freedom of speech and expression have stressed in a written statement that frequent Web site bans damage Turkey’s image abroad.

A large number of NGOs, including the Internet Technologies Association (İTD), Turkish Informatics Association (TBD) and Whole Internet Association (TİD), released the joint statement yesterday, emphasizing that Turkey is damaging its prestige and image in the eyes of other countries by frequently blocking access to various Web sites.

‘Our country should get rid of its oppressive and prohibitive approach and fight against harmful content of Web sites in light of the principles of information technology. Bans on Web sites hamper the work of those who wish to introduce Turkey and conduct their personal affairs over the Internet,’ read the statement.

The statement came in the wake of a ban on popular blog-hosting services and Access to these sites was suspended Friday upon a complaint by Lig TV, the founding broadcaster of the Turkcell Super League. According to the complaint, the two blog-hosting services enabled their users to watch soccer matches without subscribing to the TV station.

The ban received harsh criticism from several associations and activists, who said it was a great mistake to block access to the whole Web site instead of screening out unwanted content.

The NGOs also stressed in their statement that banning Web sites is against the fundamental principles of law and violates the Constitution. ‘Such bans run against Turkey’s aspirations to become a democratic and information society and join the EU,’ the statement read.

The statement also criticized the fact that the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube has remained banned for almost six months. YouTube was banned by a controversial court decision in May for broadcasting videos deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, and the concept of Turkishness, a sensitive issue in Turkey.

Despite widespread discontent with the ban and the emergence of alternate methods to access the site, the YouTube ban still remains in place. In the meantime, Telecommunications Board President Tayfun Acarer said yesterday that the YouTube ban problem can be solved if the Web site creates a version unique to Turkey.

‘In this way, we can block access to undesired content on the Web site,’ he said. Acarer also noted Turkey will not be the first country to have access to YouTube via a specific network. YouTube officials have established similar Web site versions with specific extensions in 20 countries. Acarer also said Turkey bans Web sites mainly for two reasons: They insult Atatürk or promote child pornography.

Many Web sites are also banned on the grounds that they contain vulgarity, enable gambling, promote suicide or are involved in other crimes covered under the Internet Security Law.

29 October 2008, Wednesday