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Cablegate: Turkish Courts Block Access to "Youtube" Website

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAK #0151/01 0251106
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251106Z JAN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5040
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000151

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH COURTS BLOCK ACCESS TO "YOUTUBE" WEBSITE
AGAIN

REF: 07 ANKARA 542

ANKARA 00000151 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Turkish courts banned access to the
immensely popular "YouTube" website for five days beginning
January 17, to block a picture with swear words imposed over
Turkey's founding father, Ataturk, and the Turkish flag. The
GOT maintains the courts are properly implementing a new
Internet law passed May 7, 2007. The incident -- the third
time in the past year the GOT has blocked YouTube --
generated less media attention than past cases, and has yet
to spur YouTube users to raise their collective voice. A
prolonged ban or blockage of another popular youth site, such
as "Facebook," could spark a more spirited response from
Turkey's generally apolitical youth and might become another
obstacle in Turkey's EU accession path. End summary.

-------------------------------------------
Turkish Court Orders YouTube Access Blocked
-------------------------------------------
2. (U) Courts in Istanbul, Ankara, and Sivas blocked access
to the popular "YouTube" video portal January 17th, after
prosecutors in each jurisdiction alleged that pictures
superimposing swear words over Ataturk and the Turkish flag
violated the 1951 law prohibiting "publicly insulting the
memory of Ataturk." Turkey's Telecommunications Presidency
(Telekom) immediately enforced the ban; users trying to
access the site received notices the site was blocked under
an Ankara court order.

3. (U) Telekom President Tayfun Acarer told the press YouTube
did not respond to warnings over the past two weeks to pull
the offensive content; it had also ignored several regulatory
submission deadlines. YouTube, owned by Google, issued a
statement saying the company hoped access would be
re-established quickly. Though the Ankara court repealed its
order on January 21, Telekom continued to implement the
Istanbul and Sivas court-ordered ban. Many Turkish youths
accessed YouTube using a proxy server -- a well-known
technique to circumvent government bans. Telekom in turn
began to block commonly used proxy sites. YouTube remove the
video at issue and the ban was lifted January 23.

--------------------------------------
Turkey's Internet Regulatory Framework
--------------------------------------
4. (U) Turkey first blocked YouTube in March 2007, when an
Istanbul court ruled the site should be banned due to a
cartoon video that lampooned Ataturk as gay (reftel). The
ban was lifted two days later after YouTube removed the
allegedly offensive videos. In September 2007, a Sivas court
ordered a YouTube ban because of videos deemed insulting to
Ataturk, President Gul, PM Erdogan, and the Turkish army.
"Reporters Without Borders" called the move "a radical and
disproportionate precaution against a few documents of an
offensive nature," and urged the government to reverse the
order. YouTube pulled the offensive material before the ban
went into effect.

5. (U) A more comprehensive Internet law adopted May 4, 2007
titled "The Fight Against Crimes Committed Through Internet
Broadcast" provides that upon a prosecutor's application, a
court order may block a website if there is sufficient
suspicion that users are committing one of eight crimes via
the site, including encouraging suicide or drug abuse, sexual
abuse of children, obscenity, prostitution, gambling, and
crimes against Ataturk. The new law requires Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) to pull the offensive content or
face criminal penalties (which courts may reduce to financial
penalties). While the first seven crimes are clearly
defined, crimes against Ataturk are subject to interpretation
and inconsistent application. Individuals who believe a
website violates their personal rights can request the ISP
remove the offensive content, and may appeal to a criminal
court within 15 days if the ISP does not. The ISP must
comply with a banning order within 24 hours or face criminal
sanctions.

6. (SBU) No official statistics are available, but random
Internet checks indicate courts are increasingly using the
Internet law to ban websites in an ad hoc, inconsistent

ANKARA 00000151 002.2 OF 002


manner. Some gambling websites are blocked while others
aren't; some slightly racy websites are blocked while more
graphic pornography sites are not; and blocked pages often
contain no information on the law violated or the court that
issued the order. A ban imposed August 17 on all
wordpress.com postings, a popular blogger forum, continues to
block hundreds of thousands of wordpress blogs, though only
some contained allegedly defamatory content. The blocking
technology used also appears to cast a wider net than
necessary. On repeated occasions, innocuous content ranging
from CNN political blogs to CNN finance sites have been
blocked with no explanation.

7. (SBU) Ministry of Justice Foreign Relations VP Aykut Kilic
told us there is no problem with the judiciary's application
of the Internet law. He explained that each blocked site
should be accompanied by a message indicating the law
violated and the ordering court; aberrations were the work of
hackers. The judiciary daily is increasing its capacity to
deal with a rising number of websites that violate the law,
Kilic noted.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Turkey's Internet Law 5651: The Next Article 301?
--------------------------------------------- -----
8. (U) Turkish columnists harshly criticized the ban.
"Today's Zaman's" Fatma Disli wrote that the ban highlighted
Turkey's troubled record on free expression. "Posta's"
Mehmet Barlas reasoned that banning "the virtual world" would
be infinitely more complex than banning the headscarf.
"Star" columnist Ahmet Kekec likened the ban to the book bans
instituted after Turkey's 1980 coup. "Sabah's" Emre Akoz
argued that the nationalist judiciary was acting
hypocritically by repressing free speech in an
ultraconservative manner while simultaneously criticizing the
ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as too
conservative.

9. (SBU) Several contacts predicted the Internet law would
soon outpace Penal Code Article 301 (criminalizing insulting
"Turkishness") as the most widely used method to suppress
freedom of expression. Burak Bekdil, a columnist prosecuted
under Article 301, said the Internet law's ambiguous wording
will attract ever more prosecutions against Turks for
expressing themselves on blogs, chat rooms, and websites.
Human Rights Agenda Association President Orhan Cengiz
believes the law will soon take center stage in the EU's
concerns over Turkey's poor record on free speech. Ankara
Bar Association President Vedat Cosar worries continued use
of the law to ban sites will lower Turkey to a par with
regimes that rely on censorship as a policy tool, such as
Iran and China.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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