US to Turkey on Internet bans: You need to stop doing this [Cihan News Agency (Turkey)]
(Cihan News Agency (Turkey) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ANKARA (CIHAN)- The US, addressing the Turkish government on Thursday, reiterated its previous statements on the country's recent bans affecting social media websites and said Turkey needs to unblock its citizens' access to YouTube and Twitter.
"The US opposes any action that encroaches on the right of free speech or free expression," Marie Harf, US State Department deputy spokesperson, said in remarks at a daily press briefing.
The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) on Thursday afternoon blocked access to popular video sharing platform YouTube hours after a leaked voice recording allegedly featuring the voices of Turkey's foreign minister, intelligence chief and a top army general discussing the developments in neighboring war-torn Syria was uploaded onto the site.
In the voice recording, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Güler are heard discussing a possible intervention in Syria and potential reactions from the world.
Foreign Minister Davutoglu has defended Turkey's move to block access to YouTube, citing national security concerns. Davutoglu said TIB requested that YouTube take down the audio recording but the company did not remove it. "Nothing is more important than Turkey's security, the well-being of the people or the individual rights of our citizens," Davutoglu said on Friday.
According to Harf, the US and Turkey have been discussing the whole range of issues about freedom of expression in Turkey and the US position on Internet freedom, privacy and Internet governance.
"We've been conveying in these meetings and others on the ground with the ambassador our very serious concerns about what the Turkish government has done in the Internet law, with Twitter, now with YouTube, and very strongly saying that they need to stop doing this," Harf said.
Two warnings came in one week from the White House, which expressed concern over the ban on YouTube on Thursday. "We oppose these restrictions on the Turkish people's access to information and support the people of Turkey in their calls to restore full access to blocked technologies," read a written statement by Laura Lucas Magnuson, White House spokesperson for the National Security Council.
The White House previously addressed Turkish authorities on March 21 following the ban on Twitter and said, "We urge Turkish authorities to respect the freedom of the press by permitting the independent and unfettered operation of media of all kinds, and support the people of Turkey in their calls to restore full access to the blocked technologies."
US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, and US Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, introduced a resolution condemning the government of Turkey for blocking social media sites like Twitter and YouTube, and restricting the free expression of the Turkish people, a press statement said on Thursday.
Murphy pointed out Turkey's EU membership and said Turkey needs to respect its citizens' right to exercise basic democratic freedoms if it wishes to be part of the union. "The Turkish shutdown of Twitter and YouTube for political purposes shows the danger of foreign governments gaining control over this incredible forum for liberty," Johnson said.
Füle: Where does this end, Turkey?
Reacting to the YouTube ban in Turkey, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said on Thursday that Turkey needs to respect freedom of sharing information, noting that any limitation should be proportionate. "Twitter, Youtube-where does this end?" Füle wrote on his Twitter account.
Describing the ban as disproportionate and unnecessary, Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, also criticized the ban and pointed out the deepening crisis which poses a risk to the pillars of the rule of law.
"The public must be able to be informed freely. Freedom of expression is an essential condition for free and democratic elections. The government should do its best to reduce the tension and make every effort to ensure that elections are conducted in the least bad conditions possible," she said in a press release on Friday.
PACE: Total ban of YouTube contrary to ECtHR case law
Anne Brasseur, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has described the total blocking of access to YouTube as worrying, claiming that the move is contrary to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
"I call on the Turkish authorities to respect the rulings of the Court and to refrain from such blocking of websites and social media. This is a violation of freedom of expression. I urge the authorities to bring their legislation and practices into line with European standards and the case-law of the Court as quickly as possible," Brasseur added.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also called on Turkey on Thursday to stop censoring social media platforms. "A regulator exercising censorship by blocking is unacceptable in democracies, and it breaches numerous OSCE and other international standards that Turkey has committed to," said Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)
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