Last week Global Voices reported on the temporary ban the Republic of Turkey put on media site YouTube. The background of the issue stems from a single video posted by a Greek accusing the founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as being gay. In response to this video, which was deemed as “Insulting Turkishness”, a court in Turkey blocked all access of YouTube within Turkey. When the offending video was removed, access was again granted. Turkish reaction has come in a variety of forms: anger at the Greeks and the entire situation, anger at the Turkish government's reaction, and outright embarrassment.
From the international community standpoint, the entire situation is seen as a childish display:
Ordinarily, a ridiculous exchange like this stays in the schoolyard. Those posting may actually still be in grade school, for all that anyone knows. With the global commons that is emerging online, however, governments prone to meddling with free speech no longer know what to leave on the kiddie table and what to treat as dangerous. Which just serves to illustrate how ridiculous government concern over “insulting Turkishness,” as the law phrases it, are. Adults in a free society should not be so delicate as to require government protection from juvenile insults to their nationality or religion. Taking these taunts so seriously only brings them greater attention and dramatizes a deep insecurity in those who feel so insulted.
Me and Others lashes out at the Greeks:
i have seen some very patriotic greeks who dont hesitate to use the lowest vocabulary the english language may contain against turks and our values, and yet cannot represent any bit of opinion which resembles… an opinion. even though i am pretty much sure that these people are supported by the ultra nationalist greek groups which might even have links to the greek government, lets forget about such allegations for a second. lets say that these people are indivuals who decide to attack the values turks have, and they are not backed by any groups by no means and they are alone. ok. so what does that mean? the low mind-state of these human like creatures gives a good idea of what they teach in greek schools: hatred. it is so sad that people of a nation who claim to have a very rich history and cultural assets can come up with nothing but hatred only. from this point of view, it is not Ataturk or the turks they humiliate, but only themselves.
Of course, the majority of the anger has been focused on the Turkish Government itself. From Athanasia's Daily:
Because some videos contain insulting claims on Atatürk, Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court decided that we the Turkish people should no longer have access to YouTube! Are you out of your mind?! I have serious doubts if these bureacrats know what internet means and what YouTube looks like. People, internet is something that is designed for everyone's access and participation. It is even thought as a “public sphere”. That is to say, there should be no censorship in internet and everyone should be able to express whatever they think. OK, Atatürk issue is something that we are highly sensitive about and it may argued that Turkish people were right to react those videos. However you dont have the right of blocking our access to the entire YouTube. This is called censorship.
I am not totally surprised but it is still surprising; as a citizen of Turkey i know how mighty steps can be taken by the State in case of emergency. One of the most popular websites, YouTube is banned in Turkey for a single video. All the background can be found here or here. The video is ugly. It insults the founder of the Republic. Like it or not, Atatürk is a sacred figure for most of Turkish citizens. And an insulting video would trigger such a popular reaction. However, would it be necessary to legally stop the access to Youtube?
Me and Others points out the absurdity in blocking the Greek video but not others:
there are tons of pkk propaganda in youtube, there are videos showing how kurdish terrorists kill turkish troops, followed by kurdish terror lovers praising the videos, and yet, i havent seen a word been talked about it. so, to be honest, i think the new turkish generation should find a way to get rid of these so old minded decision makers, who ever they might be, or who knows, maybe the blogger.com might be prevented too because of my humble post here.
Erkan's Field Diary sums up the embarrassment of the situation the best: “Our daily, hourly, minutely self inflicted humiliation in the eyes of world continue.”
Part of the problem was also the reaction of the Turkish people (not just the government) to threats against their identity, as Mavi Boncuk states:
It is time for Turks everywhere to grow up. Stop fighting the world by choking e-mail boxes. Do meaningful things before “Interneti alan Uskudari Gecmeden.”
Stop asking “ulufe’ from the coffers of Turkish Nation. The structure of nation to nation business only works with top level approaches. Hiring lobbyist is only natural. Go beyond these hang ups. Truth will prevail if the Turkish Diaspora can come out of their ghettos of the mind and make friends in the communities they live in, master languages, be politically active and volunteer. It is a long trek and is the only way to reach a destination. Read, investigate, discuss, disseminate information, make your ideas known to others and stop crying over spilled YouTube.
According to Erkan's Field Diary, the ban on YouTube was not lifted because of protests from the Turkish people:
I am 100% sure, Turkish citizens were not effective in revoking the ban but our elders finally thought this was to be great damage to the national reputation.
What I have presented here is only a fraction of what has been said about this issue. I would be curious to hear what you have to say on the topic. What is your opinion on government censorship? Are their instances where censorship is a benefit to the people? What limits can be put on “Insulting Turkishness” and how far outside of the Republic of Turkey should the prosecuting of such extend?