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Turkey lifts ban on access to YouTube

01 November 2010 [11:07] - TODAY.AZ
Turkey’s longstanding ban on YouTube, the world’s largest and most popular video-sharing website, was lifted Saturday by an Ankara court following the removal of controversial videos from the service.

“Turkey is a country run by laws and everyone has to obey the law,” said Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, who oversees Internet-related issues. “Finally the managers of the website [YouTube] decided to move in this direction and realized there is no other way than following [Turkey’s] laws.”

Public access to the website was banned by a court decision nearly two and a half years ago over videos insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, something that is illegal in Turkey. Removal of the videos cleared the way for Turkish users to reaccess the website legally, Yıldırım said.

A German-based international licensing service owned by a Turkish citizen bought the right to remove the disputed videos from YouTube and announced Friday that they were no longer viewable on the site. Following this development, the court in Ankara acted immediately to allow access to YouTube.

The ban on the site had sparked widespread discussions about Internet freedom in Turkey, where many users had continued to watch YouTube videos by changing their computer settings or using proxy software programs.

According to officials, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Ankara sent a letter Saturday to the Police Department asking whether the videos insulting Atatürk had been removed from YouTube. Upon receiving a positive reply from the department, the prosecutor’s office ruled that the ban should be lifted and asked the Telecommunication Transmission Directorate, or TİB, to enable access to YouTube.

“In the end, common sense prevailed; the reasons for the YouTube ban do not exist anymore. As we all see, if one obeys the laws, then there is no problem. But we didn’t get here easily; we have been through a lot in the process,” Yıldırım told the private channel NTV.

“I hope that they [YouTube] have also learned from this experience and the same thing will not happen again,” the minister said. “YouTube will hopefully carry out its future activities in Turkey within the limits of the law.”

4,000 websites are still banned

The lifting of the ban is a “joyful” event, but “not enough,” according to Gürsel Tekin, the vice chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

“We are much like a man who lost his donkey and becomes happy after finding it,” Tekin said. “Nearly 2.5 years ago, we lost our right to access YouTube, and now we have it back.”

Noting that more than 4,000 websites have been banned by Turkey’s courts, Tekin said the country should break free from the censorship mentality. “There should be a new legal infrastructure formed so Turkey can solve these kinds of matters.”

YouTube was banned in Turkey upon a decision by the Ankara 1st Penal Court of Peace on May, 5, 2008, on charges of breaking the Law on Crimes Against Atatürk.

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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