Turkey tightens controls on Internet speech
The country's courts and governments have banned 850 websites this year, including YouTube and Blogger.
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But Turkey has taken a much more expansive approach, giving courts the power to shut down Web access with little explanation or public oversight.Skip to next paragraph
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"In terms of Internet censorship, Turkey is for sure now one of the significant countries," says Clothilde Lecoz, head of the Internet freedom desk at the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. "We are very, very concerned about it."
The European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has previously been critical of Turkey's record on freedom of expression, particularly in regard to its prosecution of writers and journalists under Article 301, a vague law that punishes those who insult the state and its institutions.
"YouTube, like many other domestic and international websites, has been blocked for residents of Turkey for political reasons," Mr. Pamuk said. "Those in whom the power of the state resides may take satisfaction from all these repressive measures, but we writers, publishers, artists feel differently, as do all other creators of Turkish culture and indeed everyone who takes an interest in it: Oppression of this order does not reflect our ideas on the proper promotion of Turkish culture."
EU officials in Turkey say their concerns will be expressed in an upcoming report detailing the progress of Turkey's membership bid, due to be released in November. "It is a very restrictive law and the implementation has been very problematic," says an EU official based in Ankara.
Turkish officials admit problems with the law, but defend its intent.
"The fight against elements that aim at degenerating societies and poisoning the youth and children is the fundamental task of each country. Every country has different regulations related to the Internet," transportation minister Binali Yildirim, who is also responsible for communications, recently said. "Our aim is not to ban websites. Such measures will come to an end as soon as our courts are able to ban problematic content instead of entire websites."
Critics like Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of law at the University of Leeds and director of Cyber-Rights.Org, say Turkey's Internet law would most likely not stand up to a legal challenge in Strasbourg, the French-based European Court of Human Rights, whose judgments are binding on Turkey. "The current law should be abolished and the government should start from scratch when it comes to controlling the Internet."
Professor Akgul says without a new approach, Turkey may find itself left behind when it comes to utilizing the power of the Internet. "Turkish politicians haven't had any real vision on how to develop the Internet," he says. "There are more people working on censoring it than developing it."