Hurriyet Daily News: Turkish protesters search for unrestricted Internet, blocked by judiciary

Turkish protesters search for unrestricted Internet, blocked by judiciary – Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

Sunday, July 18, 2010
ISTANBUL – Daily News with Radikal

Marching for freedom of speech and the right to access information and share opinions, hundreds of protesters gather at central Istanbul’s Taksim Square to voice their opposition to recent judicial decisions that have cemented the Turkish government’s ban on YouTube and thousands of other websites. ‘We claim Turkey is an information highway. How can an information highway exist when 7,000 exits are blocked?’ says one protester

Despite the hot weather, more than a thousand people marched Saturday in Istanbul demanding a free Internet in response to a recent court order that cemented the ban of YouTube.

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YouTube, the popular video-sharing portal and symbolic website representing protests for Internet freedom in Turkey, has been banned by a series of court decisions, the earliest of which dates back to May 5, 2008 apparently for insulting the memory of legendary Turkish figure Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The actual problem, according to the courts, is YouTube’s parent, Google. The search engine giant is in a dispute with the Turkish government over taxes.

Another part of the ongoing dispute regards proxy websites that bypass government restrictions on access to blocked websites. In response to a question submitted by Prosecutor Kürşat Kural from Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s Press Crimes Investigation Bureau, the Telecommunication Transmission Directorate, or TİB, said 44 new IP addressed were identified as able to provide access to YouTube.

Kural demanded an additional decision from an Ankara criminal court to block the 44 new sites. When the court applied for bans on the IPs, an objection to the decision carried the case to a higher court, where the case about the new IP addresses continues.

Nihad Karslı, a lawyer for the Internet Technologies Association, or İNTED, said they plan to object if the lower court’s decision is not overturned and will likely take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Street disagrees with courtroom

The march on İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul on Saturday attracted several hundreds of people from various Internet groups, nongovernmental organizations and Internet platforms such as many popular Turkish websites, including sourtimes.org, zaytung.com and bobiler.org, the Young Civilians, Penguen magazine, ‘Sansüre Sansür’ (Censor Censorship) and ‘Sansüre Karşı Ortak Platform’ (Joint Platform against Censorship). The group gathered at Taksim Square at 5 p.m. and marched to Galatasaray Square holding large banners reading ‘Censorship-free Internet,’ ‘Do not click on our freedom,’ and ‘Censorship protects you from the truth.’ Demonstrators also had whistles, portable music systems and tambourines.

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The joint press declaration read at Galatasaray Square protested Law No. 5651, which has resulted in access to more than 5,000 Internet sites being blocked in Turkey. The protesters demanded that the law be repealed and access to the sites affected by the law be re-established. An additional 500 websites are banned by various other laws and the protesters demanded that Turkish Internet users be allowed to access them as well.

‘The Internet is the good news of a full attentive utopia of democracy being possible without a hierarchy,’ the statement read. ‘We, as Internet users, do not accept laws that do not fit the Information Age. We know that the recent Internet policies followed by government institutions is censorship.’

The demonstrators demanded an unrestricted Internet from the government in the name of the freedom of speech and the right to obtain information.

Dylan Ware, a musician who promotes his work on YouTube, said: ‘I think it is very important to protect our right to access documentation and other people’s opinions and to be able to express our own and have people hear them. It is one of the most important things for democracy and it is the key to development for a country. We have to protect that. Because people try to take that right away from us regularly, that is what happening now. Blocking YouTube because somebody said something bad about Atatürk is like blocking books. It is too wide reaching. It interferes with our basic human rights. Turkey signed the European Convention of Human Rights in 1950 and article 10 guarantees our right to be able to express ourselves. This law breaks this agreement and human rights.’

Faik Polat, a member of the Censorship-free Internet platform, said: ‘Today 7,000 sites are blocked in Turkey. If we want to be an information society, why are 7,000 sites blocked? We claim Turkey is an information highway. How can an information highway exist when 7,000 exits are blocked?’

Merve Alıcı, a member of the Young Civilians, said: ‘The legal basis for this ban was in fact related to child porn. But this decision was exploited and now 7,000 sites are blocked. With this protest, we have reached many people because there has been broad participation. We not only protest, but also we convey our declaration to Parliament. I believe this will be taken seriously.’

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