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Turkey moves to block YouTube

March 27, 2014

Turkish authorities have moved to block local access to YouTube. The action came after a recording of Turkish officials discussing Syria's security situation was posted on the website.


Turkey bans YouTube

Authorities attempted to restrict access to video-sharing website YouTube on Thursday "as a precaution," Technology Minister Fikri Isik said. When some users in Turkey tried to visit the site, they were greeted by a message reading "access has been blocked by Telecommunication Communication Presidency." Despite the government's actions, however, the site was still widely accessible following the announcement.

Just hours earlier an audio file was published on YouTube of a recording of a security meeting at which top government, military and spy officials had discussed a possible plan for military action inside Syria.

Erdogan slams leak

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at his political opponents during a campaign rally ahead of key local elections his party is contesting Sunday.

"They have leaked something on YouTube today," he said. "It was a meeting on our national security … it is a vile, cowardly, immoral act. We will go into their caves. Who are you serving by eavesdropping?"

Turkey's foreign ministry also condemned the leak as a "vile attack" and "espionage" against the country's national security.

It added that it was a "natural practice" by the state to protect Turkish property from "terrorist elements" but added certain portions of the conversation had been "distorted."

Users seek alternatives

Just last week, authorities blocked access to Twitter after it was used to spread audio recordings damaging to Erdogan's government. On Wednesday, a court ordered that the Twitter ban be suspended.

Erdogan has faced a string of recent leaks, including wiretaps suggesting a major corruption scandal. The leaks went viral on Twitter and other social media sites, including YouTube.

Since Twitter was blocked last Friday, Turkey has experienced a steady increase in the use of proxy networks known as VPNs (virtual private networks) and the network Tor, which allows users to surf the Internet anonymously.

Western backlash

The European Union's top official for digital affairs called Turkey's action on Thursday "desperate and depressing."

"I express my support for all those supporters of real freedom and democracy," EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.

"We in Europe stand for an open Internet and free expression on it," Kroes said.

Google, which owns YouTube, said it was looking into reports that some users in Turkey were unable to access the video-sharing platform. It said there were no technical problems at its end.

Turkey also has the largest number of jailed journalists in the world.

dr/ipj (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)

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