A chip in the wall of Turkey’s internet censorship

Internet Rights Protest, 2011.  Photo by Kevglobal

Internet Rights Protest, 2011. Photo by Kevglobal

Restriction of internet access can constitute an attack on freedom of expression.

This was the conclusion of the European Court of Human Rights today, when it ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of plaintiff Ahmet Yildirim under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  The court ruled that “the effects of the measure in question had therefore been arbitrary and the judicial review of the blocking of access had been insufficient to prevent abuses.”  Speaking to Bianet, Ayşe Kaymak from Alternative Telecommunications Association notes “access restrictions do not only apply to illegal web content: ‘It also effects all other users and violates basic freedoms recognized by European Declaration of Human Rights.'”

Despite this victory, however, the question of internet freedom remains a serious issue in Turkey.  Turkey’s Law no. 5651 provides the Turkish government with substantial capacity to block or ban web access. And the government has not been shy about using that power.  As a recent Freedom House report notes, “[government] censorship of the internet is relatively common and has increased in recent years.”

In a country that has fined The Simpsons for blasphemy, it is no surprise that abuses are common.  Turkey has introduced a new filtering service which  apparently sees Darwinism has threatening to children.  Alternative news sources (especially those associated with Kurdish rights) are regularly blocked.

In Turkey, the internet has become vital to both accessing information and political activism, these restrictions are a fundamental threat.

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