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Turkish Court Blocks Access to YouTube

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By BENJAMIN HARVEY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 7, 2007; 6:25 PM

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A court ordered access to YouTube's Web site blocked Wednesday after a prosecutor recommended the ban because of videos allegedly insulting the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Paul Doany, head of Turk Telekom, Turkey's largest telecommunications provider, said his company had immediately begun enforcing the ban.

"We are not in the position of saying that what YouTube did was an insult, that it was right or wrong," Doany told the state-run Anatolia news agency. "A court decision was proposed to us, and we are doing what that court decision says."

Visitors to the YouTube site from Turkey were greeted with the message: "Access to this site has been blocked by a court decision! ..."

A message in both Turkish and English at the bottom of the page said, "Access to http://www.youtube.com site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/384 dated 06.03.2007 of Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court."

The court _ acting on a petition from Turk Telekom _ ruled later Wednesday that it would revoke the ban as soon as it ascertained that the offending videos had been removed from YouTube. YouTube is owned by internet search engine giant Google Inc.

Earlier, Doany said Turk Telekom would allow access to the popular video sharing site again if the court decision were rescinded. Access from Turkey might be possible through other service providers, he said.

Most Internet users in Turkey use Turk Telekom, a state-run monopoly until it was privatized in 2005.

During the past week, Turkish media publicized what some called a "virtual war" between Greeks and Turks on YouTube, with people from both sides posting videos to belittle and berate the other.

The video prompting the ban allegedly said Ataturk and the Turkish people were homosexuals, news reports said. The CNN-Turk Web site featured a link allowing Turks to complain directly by e-mail to YouTube about the "insult."

On its front page Wednesday, the newspaper Hurriyet said thousands of people had written to YouTube and that the Ataturk videos had been removed from the site. "YouTube got the message," the headline said.

Insulting Ataturk or "Turkishness" is a crime in Turkey punishable by prison.

Turkey, which hopes to join the European Union, has been roundly condemned for not doing enough to curb extreme nationalist sentiments and to protect freedom of expression.

It's not the first time YouTube has been banned. The Australian state of Victoria recently banned it from government schools in a crackdown on cyber-bullying after a gang of male students videotaped their assault on a 17-year-old girl on the outskirts of Melbourne.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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