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Google's blog services censored; RSF calls for Law 5651 to be amended

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the censorship of Google's blog services, Blogger ( http://www.blogger.com ) and Blogspot ( http://www.blogspot.com ), by a magistrate's court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir as a result of a complaint by the Turkish TV station Digitürk. The station claims that video footage over which it has exclusive rights has been posted on blogs hosted by these services.

"The blogs on these services were suddenly closed without any warning to users and without any court summonses being issued," Reporters Without Borders said. "This is not just about copyright and piracy. This is yet another example of how, in Turkey, entire websites are closed just because of problematic content on a single page or blog. We call for Blogger and Blogspot to be reopened. Their closure has handicapped thousands of Internet users in Turkey."

Access to some 10 websites, including very popular ones such as YouTube ( http://www.yuTube.com ), Dailymotion ( http://www.Dailymotion.com ) and Google Groups, have been blocked in 2008 in Turkey as a result of court decisions. In most cases, access was blocked under Law 5651 on the Prevention of Crime Committed in the Information Technology Domain, which was adopted by parliament in May 2007 and took effect the following November.

This law empowers a public prosecutor to ban access to a website within 24 hours if the content is considered "liable to incite suicide, pedophilia, drug usage, obscenity or prostitution" or if it "contradicts the law of [Turkish republic founder] Atatürk."

Article 8 of the law provides for the blocking of content contrary to Law 5816, which has been in effect since 1951 and which punishes "crimes against Atatürk." "This article says that "when there is sufficient evidence supporting the abusive appearance of content (. . .) access must be blocked." As well as "crimes against Atatürk," Law 5651 punishes "inciting suicide" (Article 84), "sexual abuse of children" (Article 103), "prostitution" (Article 227) and "inciting drug usage" (Article 190).

Reporters Without Borders warned of the danger this law represents for online free expression when it was approved by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on 22 May 2007.

Commenting on the latest developments, Reporters Without Borders said: "All this arbitrary blocking of websites has demonstrated that this law is the main source for the deterioration in online free expression. Furthermore, ISPs are forced to do the blocking of access to sites that break this law. This makes them accomplices to censorship."

The press freedom organisation added: "We call for Law 5651 to be amended as quickly as possible. Rather than block an entire website, only the content regarded as 'sensitive' should be the challenged before the courts."

Turkey was ranked 102nd out of 173 countries in the 2008 press freedom index which Reporters Without Borders released on 22 October.

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