Turkey’s Constitutional Court lifts ban on YouTube

Turkey’s Constitutional Court decided on Thursday afternoon to lift a ban imposed on popular video sharing platform YouTube, a block which resulted in Turkey attracting extensive criticism from the international community.

The court said the ban was a violation of human rights.

The top court will now send its ruling to the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) and the Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communication for the ban to be lifted.

TİB blocked access to YouTube on March 27, hours after a leaked voice recording that features the voices of the foreign minister, intelligence chief and a top army general discussing the developments in neighboring war-torn Syria was uploaded onto the website.

In the recording that reportedly caused the ban on YouTube, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler can be heard discussing a possible intervention in Syria and potential world responses.

The move to block YouTube came days after a ban was introduced on Twitter, where users had shared links to voice recordings that allegedly served as proof of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as some of the members of his family and ministers being involved in graft.

On April 4, the Ankara court that had blocked nationwide access to YouTube canceled its ruling following a petition for an appeal against the ban. The decision came shortly after the Constitutional Court found the ban on Twitter to be a violation of free speech.

The government views the ban on Twitter and YouTube, which placed Turkey in the league of undemocratic countries in the world, as an essential measure to protect citizens’ privacy.

“Twitter, mwitter!” Erdoğan told thousands of supporters at a rally ahead of March 30 local elections. “We will wipe out all of these,” said Erdoğan, who has said the corruption scandal is part of a smear campaign by his political enemies.

“The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” he said in a characteristically unyielding tone.

Last month, the prime minister appealed to the Constitutional Court, complaining that court orders about the violations of his and his family’s rights on social media are not implemented.

Erdoğan said in his complaint that he and his family had been subjected to illegal wiretapping, and that his right to privacy as well as freedom of communication were violated.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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