22nd Oct 2016

Turkey moves to block YouTube

  • Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces allegations of corruption (Photo: Fortum Sverige)

After having denied Turkey's 12 million Twitter users access to the micro-blogging site, Turkish authorities on Thursday (27 March) moved to block YouTube.

The YouTube block, according to Turkey’s national telecommunications authority, was needed as a “precautionary administrative measure” hours after a government recording on possible Syria military operations was leaked onto the social media site.

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EU digital affairs commissioner Neelie Kroes condemned the move via twitter.

“This is another desperate and depressing move in Turkey,” she tweeted.

“I express my support for all those supporters of real freedom and democracy. We in Europe stand for an open internet and free expression on it," she added.

Some users are still able to access the video-sharing site through anonymous connections to the web via so-called “virtual private networks”.

For its part, Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs described the YouTube leak as “a despicable attack, an act of espionage and a very serious crime against the national security of Turkey”.

The ministry, in a statement published on its website, vowed to seek out those behind the leak and sentence them “with the heaviest penalty they deserve by law".

Before the Twitter and YouTube ban, the country already ranked 154 among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

In an op-ed published in The Guardian newspaper, dozens of writers and poets from around the world, said colleagues in Turkey face criminal proceedings and imprisonment under its harsh anti-terror law.

Turkey’s penal code includes articles on defamation, religious defamation, obscenity, insulting the Turkish people, state or its organs, and promoting conscientious objection to military service.

Despite the threats and crackdown, allegations of corruption persist since police arrested sons of three cabinet ministers and at least 34 others in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inner circle last December.

The police operation was part of a larger corruption investigation, which also probed Erdogan’s son and closest business partners.

Erdogan’s response was harsh.

He purged thousands of police, judges, government officials, and prosecutors to remove what he described as a conspiracy to supplant his rule.

Turkey’s parliament, dominated by Erdogan’s AKP party, also introduced two controversial laws earlier in the year.

The first law undermines the independence of the supreme court by bringing it under the executive branch.

The second allows the government-run telecommunications regulator to block websites without a court order.

Erdogan’s slide towards silencing dissent is seen by pro-rights group as an attempt to muffle criticism over the high-level corruption allegations ahead of local elections on Sunday.

Hours before the Twitter shutdown on 20 March, the prime minister declared he wanted to “root out Twitter, no matter what the international community thought”.

A court in Ankara on Wednesday ordered the regulator to lift the Twitter ban.

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