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Free Speech Roundup: Turkey, Russia, Pakistan, India

(1) YouTube blocked in Turkey again. (2) Russian LiveJournal user faces prison over fictional story. (3) Blogspot.com blocked again in Pakistan. (4) Mumbai police planning to install keystroke loggers in cyber cafés.

Turkey Blocks YouTube. Again.

For the second time in a year, a Turkish court ordered, on Tuesday September 18, to block access to YouTube.com over videos deemed insulting to the country's leaders.

The decision followed a complaint by a resident in the eastern city of Sivas that the site hosted videos containing insults against Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the army.

It's a tumultuous time for YouTube in Turkey. A wave of controversy over an ultra nationalist video praising the assassination of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink posted on the video-sharing site has made its way into the pages of country's most popular newspapers–and to the courts. According to Turkish Daily News, Dink’s lawyers said the video “incites people to commit hate crimes by abusing race and religion and by praising a murderer.” They lawyers are preparing to file a complaint.

In March of this year, the country’s largest telecommunications services provider, Turk Telekom, blocked access to YouTube for two days, following a court decision deeming that videos appearing on the site were insulting to the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, and to the Turkish people.

On August 17, 2007, the Turkish Fatih Second Civil Court of First Instance blocked access to the entire wordpress.com domain after lawyers for Turkish Islamic-creationist, Adnan Oktar, aka Harun Yahya alleged that a blog hosted on wordpress.com contained material that libeled their client.

Russian LiveJournal blogger could face three-year sentence

The 23-year old Russian blogger, Dmitry Shirinkin, who posted a fictional story on his blog inspired by the Virginia Tech shooting, could face up to three years in prison (read the whole story on Global Voices). Dmitry Shirinkin was running a LiveJournal blog under the name “tetraox” and wrote about buying a gun and killing number of people in one of the city's colleges. He is being accused of “falsely warning of a terror threat.”

“The Prosecutor's Office analysed Dmitry's blog and concluded he had a desire to shoot dead a dozen people,” Russia Today reported. However, Shirinkin's defense is requesting a language analyst to give his expert opinion on the controversial text. The trial has been adjourned to September 20th.

In an interview with Russia Today (see the video above), Shirinkin said “I didn’t expect that a short writing piece could provoke such reaction from the security services. They interrogated me asking where my gun was, but I'd never had one.”

According to Russia Today, even before the trial Dmitry was already a popular figure, as he had been awarded the title of the best blogger in the region. Russian bloggers are rightly concerned that Shirinkin's case might set a bad precedent for the country's Internet users.

Another Russian Livejournal blogger is facing a two-year prison sentence or a fine of 100,000 rubles (US$4,000) for “inciting hate” against police. According to the Komi regional prosecutor, the allegedly offensive message–which has been deleted from the site–by the 21-year old Savva Terentyev contains “a direct call aimed at inciting hatred or hostility, as well as harming the dignity of … a particular social group: policemen.”

Pakistan: blogspot.com blocked again

Don’t Block The Blog reported that access to the popular blogging platform blogspot.com, which is owned by Google Inc, has been blocked again in Pakistan:

For about four months (since May, 2007) Google fortunately had changed the IP address of its Blogspot servers. The new IP addresses were not demarcated as prohibited by the censorship filters located at the Pakistan Internet Exchange. Today, for some odd reason, Google has suddenly reverted back to its original IP address, which has been on the block list since March of 2006. This move has resulted in the blocking of all internet traffic to the blogspot.com domain. Millions of blog readers in Pakistan now are unable to read or and interact with any of these websites.

The “Don’t Block The Blog” (DBTB) campaign was launched in response to the blanket ban on the Blogspot.com blogging platform instituted by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on March 3, 2006.

Read our earlier interview
with Omer Alvie, the co-founder of (DBTB), about the blanket ban and the Pakistani campaign to support online freedom of speech.

Mumbai police to monitor cyber-cafes

In support of its war against terrorism, police in Mumbai, India, are planning to install keystroke loggers in the city's cyber cafes. According to Vijay Mukhi, President of the Foundation for Information Security and Technology:

The police needs to install programs that will capture every key stroke at regular interval screen shots, which will be sent back to a server that will log all the data. The police can then keep track of all communication between terrorists no matter, which part of the world they operate from.This is the only way to patrol the net and this is how the police informer is going to look in the e-age.

This new monitoring software, CARMS (Cyber Access Remote Monitoring System), that Mumbai's police are requiring the city's 500 Internet cafes to install, “will capture every keystroke by users and turn that information over to the government — nearly in realtime by the sound of it,” said the Indian journalist Amit Varma.

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