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Government shuts down access to YouTube; citizens protest Internet restrictions

Turkish Internet law permits authorities to block access to thousands of websites. After blocking access to YouTube in 2008, the Turkish government recently shut down 44 IP addresses that offered alternative ways to access the Google-owned video-sharing website, report the IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In response, two thousand people took to the street in protest against Internet restrictions.

The blocking of the 44 IP addresses, ordered in mid-June, has barred access to other Google services such as Google Maps and Google Analytics. But Internet freedom is being tampered with for the sake of financial blackmail. Turkish media reports say that although a judge said YouTube was censored because it violated Internet law, a government minister suggested that in reality, it was in order to tax the advertising earnings of YouTube and Google.

On 17 July, about 2,000 demonstrators hit the streets in Istanbul, including members of non-governmental organisations, website representatives and human rights activists, demanding Internet freedom. They shouted slogans like: "Raise, raise, raise your voice on the street", "There is no escape on your own - either all together or none". Protesters held up banners that read: "Don't click away our freedom" and "No censorship for political sites."

Many young people joined the protest because they see the Internet as the only place for free expression being eroded. "They want their voices to be heard on the streets since they cannot be heard on the Internet platforms," Bulent Aydin from the Equality and Democracy Party (EDP) told BIANET.

In a separate episode of censorship, a website was banned in south-eastern Turkey. Access was blocked because the site contained articles and reader comments critical of the local governor. The courts made the decision on 2 July.

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