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European Court: Turkey’s Blocking of YouTube Was Illegal

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Turkey violated the European Convention on Human Rights by blocking video-sharing website YouTube for more than two years.

Ankara had banned access to YouTube between May 2008 and October 2010, alleging that the website contained 10 videos deemed insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, the court said.

Three Turkish law professors had filed a complaint with the court in 2010, after a Turkish criminal court ordered access blocked to YouTube.

The Strasbourg-based human rights tribunal ruled that blocking the website had infringed on the right of teachers to “receive and impart information” and that there had been a “violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, of which Turkey is a signatory.

FILE - A man tries to get connected to the YouTube web site with his tablet at a cafe in Istanbul, March 27, 2014.
FILE - A man tries to get connected to the YouTube web site with his tablet at a cafe in Istanbul, March 27, 2014.

Before the ban, YouTube had been the fifth most popular site in Turkey. Under then-prime minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country has topped the Google list of clients requesting content removal.

Last year YouTube also accused Turkey of intercepting its Internet domain and redirecting users to other sites.

The lengthy ban on YouTube and other websites had raised concern about freedom of expression in the country.

The government blocked Twitter and YouTube in March 2014 after they were used to upload audio recordings implicating Erdogan and his inner circle in an alleged corruption scandal.

In April 2015, Turkey also briefly banned YouTube and Twitter after a court ordered them to remove images of a prosecutor held at gunpoint by far-left militants.

Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have repeatedly been criticized for using court orders to block critical websites.

Government critics have said that the crackdown on the sites reflects growing authoritarianism in Turkey.