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Turkey's YouTube blackout enters year two

Much ado about Ataturk

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Turkey is getting a dressing-down today from free press organization Reporters Without Borders, as the country's blockage of YouTube enters year two.

Google's video-sharing site has been banned a number of times in Turkey since early 2007, in most cases because of videos deemed insulting to the country's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who died over eight decades ago.

Turkey's fourth and most recent YouTube banning was hammered down on 5 May 2008.

The clip believed to have originally sparked the YouTube controversy in 2007 was a parody news broadcast by Greek football fans taunting their Turkish rivals by declaring "Today's news; Kemal Ataturk was gay!"

Turkish law lets prosecutors seek a court-ordered shutdown of any website deemed liable to incite suicide, paedophilia, drug usage, obscenity, prostitution, or attacking the memory of the republic's founding father.

Critics note the law opens the door to many abuses — such as letting a couple soccer fans effectively shut down an entire country's access to the world's most popular video-sharing website.

After the offending video was taken down by Google and YouTube users, Turkish prosecutors objected to dozens of other videos allegedly insulting Ataturk or other Turkish sensibilities. The latest barring was the result of three Ankara magistrate court orders on the grounds that Google hadn't obtained a license from the Turkish authorities.

“The blocking of YouTube has gone on long enough,” Reporters Without Borders said today in a prepared statement. “We urge the Turkish authorities to amend their legislation regulating Internet use instead of than arbitrarily censoring content. Such behaviour is unworthy of a country that claims to be democratic and makes us very concerned for the future of the Internet in Turkey. We call for the revision of the three court orders that led to this unwarranted blocking.”

Turkey is just one of several countries to have barred YouTube, including China, Armenia, Morocco, Pakistan, Thailand, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Saudia Arabia, and Syria. ®

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