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Turkish government lifts YouTube ban

The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office of Ankara on Saturday lifted a nearly three-year ban on YouTube [media website; JURIST news archive] after disputed videos were removed from the site's content. A German-based international licensing service owned by a Turkish citizen reportedly bought the rights to the videos [Hurriyet report] that allegedly insulted Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile], and removed them on Friday. Insulting Ataturk is a criminal offense in Turkey, punishable by prison sentence. After confirming with the police department that the disputed content had been taken down, the prosecutor's office ordered the Telecommunication Transmission Directorate (TIB), which controls Internet accessibility in Turkey, to enable YouTube for Turkish Internet users. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official website] welcomed [press release] the lifting of the ban, encouraging Turkey to "continue in this direction by reforming its Internet law and lift remaining website bans." More than 4,000 websites remain banned in Turkey.

The ban on YouTube was implemented [JURIST report] in 2008 after insulting clips of Ataturk were discovered on the site. Earlier this year, the TIB also placed a ban on certain Google sites [JURIST report], which made it difficult for Turkish citizens to access YouTube indirectly. Turkish President Abdullah Gul criticized these bans [JURIST report] on his Twitter account and called for them to be lifted. The OSCE has repeated called on Turkey to bring its penal code in line with OSCE commitments and international standards. Specifically, Article 301 [AI Backgrounder] of the Turkish penal code, which criminalizes insulting "Turkishness," has been criticized for too-strictly limiting free speech, a limitation that is seen as a stumbling block [JURIST report] for Turkey's admittance to the EU.

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