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.
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) ( Among them are many foreign websites, news sites about the Kurd minority, and EU gay websites, thereby muzzling any opportunity for debate.

. . . .

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.
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.


Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

The reporting on this has been uniformly horrible. The Youtube ban, for example, is increasingly looking like a powerplay by the gov't to pull google into the taxation/regulation jurisdiction here by forcing the opining of a local office. The minister in charge almost says as much.

Heaven help those whose profession depends on making sense of this kind of gov't action. I happen to have some knowledge of the 'net and watched how this public (and, later, the world community at large) were failed by the press and the pundits since law 5651 was in the parliamentary committee stage. If this is how the democratic process and information flow actually works, it is a miracle (and possibly an oversight by the powers that be) that we have any meaningful, unmonitored and untaxed liberties whatsoever.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Here you go: Google censors material just for Turkey. (Here's another coversation I had elsewhere, where I linked a bunch of stuff including the PDF book by Y. Akdeniz that you probably already know about and a comment from the minister. Also note the reaction that blogger got. Grr.)