Citizens in Turkey frequently find themselves in opposition with their government leaders.

Citizens in Turkey frequently find themselves in opposition with their government leaders. Photo: Eser Karadağ | FlickrCC.

In some ways, the nation of Turkey was intended to be the modernized version of the old Ottoman Empire. It’s creation was a byproduct of that empire’s collapse, true, but the state that rose from the rubble was supposed to be modern, and “western,” with all that entails, like freedom of expression.

But Turkey has had a rough go of it in some ways, and while life for Turkish citizens is generally pretty good, there have been a few rough spots under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, first Prime Minister, and now President. According to critics of the Turkish government, perhaps including the academics that lodged a complaint about the state with the European Court of Human Rights, the state under Erdogan has become increasingly totalitarian.

The complaint in question had to do with YouTube, specifically, with Turkey banning and blocking the site between May 2008 and October 2010. The government claimed that the site contained ten videos, which insulted the memory of Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. The Court, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled against the state, finding that Turkey had indeed violated freedom of expression by blocking YouTube. They argued that the academics in particular, and Turkish citizens in general, were denied “their right to receive and impart information and ideas.”

The court also pointed out that, at the time, there was no Turkish law which allowed the state to apply a blanket blocking order against a site like YouTube on the basis of only part of its content. Since then, Turkish laws have changed to allow this, but that move in and of itself, is suspicious. In March of 2014 YouTube and Twitter were blocked briefly after recordings surfaced that alleged corruption in Erdogan’s inner circle. Even more recently, in April, the sites were blocked over footage of militants threatening a prosecutor, and again late in November when two journalists were arrested for espionage and terrorist propaganda.