The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment, in French] unanimously on Tuesday that a Turkish court order blocking access to YouTube [media website] violated [press release, PDF] Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The Ankara Criminal Court of First Instance imposed the order primarily on the ground that YouTube contained approximately 10 videos that were considered insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk [BBC profile] known as the “Father of the Turks.” The court order prevented access to YouTube from May 5, 2008, until October 30, 2010, and the plaintiffs, Turkish law professors Serkan Cengiz, Yaman Akdeniz and Kerem Altıparmak, argued that the order “interfered with their right to freedom to receive or impart information and ideas.” The ECHR held that the order was an unwarranted interference by public authority of the rights guaranteed by Article 10.
This was not the first freedom of expression incident for which Turkey has been criticized. In April a prosecutor in Turkey ordered [JURIST report] Internet providers to block social networking sites including Twitter and YouTube. In September of last year Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] was taking steps to weaken the rule of law, control Internet and media and suppress critics and protesters. In April of last year the Turkish government lifted a ban [JURIST report] on Twitter following a Constitutional Court ruling which stated that the ban violated both individual rights as well as the freedom of expression.