Turkey’s YouTube ban called ‘attack on free speech’

PM Tayyip Erdogan (left) has banned access to YouTube and Twitter. (Courtesy GovernmentZA / Flickr)

PM Tayyip Erdogan (left) has banned access to YouTube and Twitter. (Courtesy GovernmentZA / Flickr)

The Turkish government blocked access to YouTube on March 27, less than a week after it blacked out Twitter — an act a Ryerson grad is calling a “full-fledged attack on free speech.”

The last time Diran, who didn’t want to disclose his last name, visited his home country was four years ago.

He remembers a ban on YouTube during that time as well.

But that didn’t stop him or his family from visiting the popular video-streaming site. They simply downloaded a program, a “crack,” he calls it, and got access.

“They continue to live their lives,” Diran said. “It’s available for everybody. Practically everyone uses it.”

The current ban on YouTube came hours after an audio file of a secret government meeting was leaked onto the video-sharing site.

The audio file is alleged to be a security meeting between the military, spy and governmental officials as they speak about military action in Syria, Al Jazeera reports.

“They have leaked something on YouTube today,” said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Tansel Erguden, a Ryerson senior analyst at the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, migrated to Canada from Turkey in 1995. He visited his native country about four years ago and the social media site was not available then, either.

But he said the ban doesn’t stop residents from finding other ways to access the site.

He remembers his friend was able to change his IP address so Erguden could show him a funny YouTube video.

“It’s fairly easy to do it. My friend is not computer savvy,” he said.

Erguden said he is against the ban.

“Everyone should be able to put their opinion (on social media), regardless of being for or against the government,” he said.

According to Al Jazeera, the Turkish prime minister told a campaign rally on Sunday that he ordered the ban, after calling the video leak “a vile, cowardly, immoral act.”

The Eastern European country is reeling from its municipal elections on Sunday, which saw massive riots.

The result, however, saw Erdogan’s Islamist Justice Development Party (AKP) win a majority of the mayoral elections.

In the meantime, a court has ordered a suspension of the Twitter ban. But according to the Associated Press, users who have attempted to access YouTube will receive this message: “After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the law, an administrative measure has been taken for this website.”

YouTube is also banned in China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.

According to YouTube’s policy, the Google-owned site prohibits hate speech, but allows political speech.

“It is generally OK to criticize a nation-state,” the policy states, “but not OK to post malicious hateful comments about a group of people solely based on their race.”

Diran said he believes the ban won’t be permanent and hopes it is lifted soon.

“They haven’t thought it through. (The ban) was made last minute out of anger because of all the stuff that was going on,” he said. “It’s just making a point.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 2, 2014.

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