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Turkey bans YouTube, blames espionage

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Two days after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the press that “YouTube is behind the whole (Twitter) thing” a Turkish administrative tribunal banned access to YouTube early today. The ban was purportedly brought about by a YouTube video featuring alleged voice recordings of a top secret government meeting about military intervention in Syria, what the government calls an act of espionage of the highest order. Facebook may be next.

After Twitter YouTube access became the second casualty of Turkey’s internet censorship bill passed in December. It was purportedly prompted by “a spy” who uploaded voice recordings of a top secret meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The said meeting between Foreign Minister Davutoglu, his deputy, a high-ranking general and the deputy head of the intelligence agency discussed military intervention in Syria. Cross-border military intervention has been on the public agenda for the past few weeks on account of alleged threats against the tomb of Suleiman Shah. The tomb near Aleppo is officially Turkish territory by treaty. Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is believed to be buried there. It's guarded by a small contingency of Turkish troops.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu said that the YouTube video is an act of espionage of the highest order and the traitor behind exposing state secrets will be punished severely. Prime Minister Erdogan believes that Turkish police, judiciary and the bureaucracy have been infiltrated by followers of Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in the United States under political asylum. He has insinuated more than once that certain foreign interests have been trying to wear down Turkish democracy through agents such as Mr. Gulen, Twitter and YouTube. A number of voice recordings, alleged to be conversations between the PM and his son, were aired on YouTube but YouTube shut these down upon request.

The left-leaning Turkish daily Cumhuriyet re-published the impugned secret meeting video on its website until the publishers received a special delivery letter from the Directorate of Communications later today. The letter requested that the video be removed forthwith since it violates “personal privacy” of the individuals involved. Although the paper argues that the censorship is highly improper and unlawful, it has nevertheless complied with the request.

Turkey goes to the polls on March 30 for municipal elections, which will probably be an advance poll for next year’s general elections.

Facebook may be next.

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