Human Rights Watch has issued an important assessment of the Ahmet Yıldırım internet case.
On December 18, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had violated the right to freedom of expression through an overly broad blocking of google sites and found that Turkey’s system of internet controls allowed for abuses and arbitrary action. (For more on this case, see our previous blog on the subject.)
HRW gives a useful overview of the detrimental consequences of Law 5651
Turkey adopted its Internet blocking law in 2007. According to tests conducted by the OpenNet Initiative, an internet filtering research group, the number of websites blocked by Turkey has “drastically increased” since that time, with 2,600 sites blocked within the first two years by some estimates. A Report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe representative on freedom of the media confirms this trend, though the exact number of sites is difficult to determine since Telecommunications Directorate stopped publishing statistics in May 2009.
An estimated 80 percent of the blocking results from the Directorate’s administrative decisions, with no judicial oversight, and websites are often not notified when they are blocked. The website engelliweb.com, which provides a listing of websites reportedly blocked in Turkey, currently lists 22,536 blocked websites, the vast majority through Directorate decisions and showing a rising number blocked over the past two years.
Blocking orders have been directed against several international websites that host large volumes of user content, including YouTube, Blogspot, and WordPress. In addition, the Directorate and local courts have blocked news sites with a pro-Kurdish political line and online forums central to the Turkey’s LGBT community, even though there is no clear legal basis under Law 5651 for blocking them. A website can be blocked under Law 5651 only if there is “sufficient suspicion” that certain crimes listed in the law are being committed on the website.
Because of this shoddy record, Human Rights Watch argues that “the Turkish government should take all necessary steps to carry out the decision by reforming the law and end its wholesale blocking of websites and content hosting services.”