Currently, some 3,700 sites are allegedly blocked in Turkey, some for “arbitrary and political reasons,” according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (www.osce.org). Among them are many foreign websites, news sites about the Kurd minority, and EU gay websites, thereby muzzling any opportunity for debate.The report also cites individual cases in which "netizens" were harassed, oftentimes prosecuted under the varous criminal provisions restricting freedom of expression in Turkey's penal code.
. . . .
Law 5651 on the Internet permits this mass blocking. The OSCE thus urged Turkey to implement reforms to demonstrate its commitment to freedom of expression. Article 8 of this Law authorizes blocking the access to certain websites if there is even a “adequate suspicion” that any of the following eight offenses are being committed: encouraging suicide; sexual exploitation or abuse of children, facilitating the use of narcotics; supply of unhealthy substances; obscenity; online betting, or anti-Ataturk crimes. It is this latter provision that creates problems. Websites hosted in Turkey are often shut down, and those hosted abroad are filtered and blocked by Internet service providers. Denunciations are encouraged: there is a hotline for reporting prohibited online content and illegal activities. Over 80,000 calls were recorded in May 2009, as opposed to 25,000 in October 2008.
Site-blocking is carried out by court order or by administrative order of the Supreme Council for Telecommunications and IT. Such administrative decision is arbitrary and precludes the possibility of a fair trial. This entity, which was created in 2005 in the aim of centralizing surveillance and the interception of communications (including on the Internet), has not issued its blacklist of blocked websites since May 2009 – indicating a troubling lack of transparency.
. . . .
Internet censorship is truly raising concern in Turkish society. The blogosphere has been protesting against the blocking of YouTube, and the mobilization campaign was relayed by the traditional media after an article on the subject was published in The Wall Street Journal. Virulent editorials have appeared in Turkish newspapers. One of them, printed in the Milliyet daily of February 17, 2010, was headlined: “Let’s take away Istanbul’s status as the European Capital of Culture” – a status granted by the European Union in 2010 in order to recognize Turkey’s cultural development. The censorship strategy adopted by Turkey, as publicized by the YouTube case, seems to conflict with its European ambitions and the contemporary image it wishes to project.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Reporters Without Borders Puts Turkey "Under Surveillance"
Reporters Without Borders has put Turkey on its "Under Surveillance" list of countries routinely restricting freedom of expression on the Internet. Reporters Without Borders' short report largely echoes that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued in January.