March 7, 2007 5:05 pm

Turkish court shuts down YouTube

Turkey’s largest internet services provider shut down access to the YouTube video-sharing web site on Wednesday after a court ruling that some of its content insulted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

The decision followed days of furious insult-sharing among Turkish and Greek users of the popular and controversial site.

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The result was a flood of complaints to the site and to the media from Turkish users angered by what one newspaper said were “fanatic Greeks broadcasting videos” insulting Ataturk.

Turk Telekom acted first by removing the offending items, but a court ordered access to the site to be blocked late on Tuesday after prosecutors brought a case against YouTube.

A message posted on the site late on Wednesday said access had been suspended following a decision by an Istanbul court. One video posted on the site allegedly claimed that Ataturk and Turks were “homosexuals”. Ataturk, who died in 1938, is a revered figure in Turkey and it is a crime to “insult” him or state institutions. Many writers, including the Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk, have faced trial for work that allegedly breaches this law.

Paul Doany, chief executive of Turk Telekom, said the company had received a faxed copy of the court’s decision on Tuesday. “YouTube’s services have been suspended in Turkey in accordance with this decision,” he said.

The site would remain blocked until the court decided otherwise.

The decision to shut off access to the site was not a judgement on the material broadcast, he added, but a response to a legal decision. The government has promised to look at ways of amending article 301 of Turkey’s penal code, under which prosecutions of writers can be brought. But it appears unlikely that the article will be abolished, as campaigners have urged.

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