Amid wider concerns over freedom of expression and access to information in Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled the government violated fundamental freedoms when it blocked access to YouTube.
Turkey’s violation of the European Convention on Human Rights occurred when it blocked YouTube access between 2008 and 2010. The ban arose when authorities in Ankara decided that ten videos on the international video-sharing website insulted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern state of Turkey.
The Strasbourg-based human rights court ruled against Turkey’s actions, reports Deutsche Welle, finding that “there was no provision in the law allowing the domestic courts to impose a blanket blocking order on access to the Internet, and in the present case to YouTube, on account of one of its contents.”
The ECHR’s ruling does not, however, mean that Turkey need change its ways in relation to internet censorship. It was specifically “blocking without a legal basis” that infringed the the right to receive and impart freedom.
In response Turkish law has simply been changed since the case was brought by three law teachers in 2010, giving “legal basis” to the blanket blocking of websites.
In fact Turkey blocks access to websites and information on a regular basis, especially in cases of “insulting Turkishness”. “Terrorist propaganda” for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party is also a common target.
In March 2014, the government of then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, imposed a temporary block on Twitter and YouTube after audio recordings were leaked which implicated him and his inner circle in an alleged corruption scandal.
Turkey is no stranger to adverse rulings from the ECHR. With over 3,000 rulings against it since 1959 Turkey is by some distance the country most often found to be breaching human rights.
In spite of international and domestic criticism of the authoritarian tendencies of the Turkish state, the country has recently been promised accelerated talks paving the way for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, a policy supported by British Prime Minister David Cameron.