ANKARA (AFP)—A Turkish court on Saturday ordered the lifting of a three-year ban on Internet video website YouTube, media reports said, but thousands of other sites are still blocked.
Access to YouTube was barred in September 2007 by a court in Sivas, eastern Turkey, after an individual complained of clips disrespectful to the revered founder of the modern state, Mustafa Kemal Atataturk.
The ban was extended on different occasions by media authorities, the most recently in June, prompting a complaint from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at Turkey’s wholesale censorship of websites.
The Turkish NTV television channel said the court in Ankara had lifted the YouTube ban on Saturday because the offending videos had been removed.
Before the ban YouTube was the fifth most popular site in Turkey, according to analitcs Alkexa Internet.
On June 4 Turkey also blocked access to more than 30 Google sites, which Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said had been reconfigured to enable Internet users to access YouTube.
The minister also said that Turkey had fined YouTube 15.6 million euros (21 million dollars) for never paying taxes in Turkey in spite of earnings made from advertising.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul has however come out against censorship of the Internet and called for a revision of Turkish laws.
Blocked sites tend to be those relating to sensitive subjects of “national dignity”, including Ataturk, the army and minorities such as the Kurds. Bloggers who speak out indelicately on such topics also risk punishment.
In a message to Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in June, the OSCE’s media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic said, “I ask the Turkish authorities to revoke the blocking provisions that prevent citizens from being part of today’s global information society.”
Mijatovic also called for “a very much needed reform” of Turkey’s so-called Internet Law, as it “considerably limits freedom of expression and severely restricts citizens’ right to access information.”
It is “a worrisome indicator that instead of allowing free access to the Internet, new ways have emerged that can further restrict the free flow of information in the country,” she said.