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Turkish court throws out ban on Twitter as PM rages

By Noel Young | Correspondent

March 26, 2014 | 4 min read

A court in Ankara has ruled that the Turkish government cannot ban Twitter, and ordered the country’s telecommunications authority to restore access to the service, which the authorities sought to block five days ago.

"What is this thing called twitter?"

The action by the government had been met with "uproar inside and outside the country about respect for freedom of expression," said the New York Times.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling would be appealed, or would be overtaken by a new court order.

The court had ruled in response to complaints by Turkey’s Bar Association and its journalists’ union, arguing that the attempt to block Twitter in the country contravened the freedom of information and communication laws.

The prohibition has been widely bypassed by Twitter users, who have reached the service through alternative channels, said the NYT.

The telecommunications authority imposed the ban on the ground that Twitter messages had violated personal privacy. But many people in Turkey said the measure seemed to be politically motivated.

Government critics had used Twitter to publicize leaked recordings of telephone conversations that were said to show widespread corruption among government officials and people close to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including his son. PM Erdogan said the recordings were fabricated by his adversaries.

Legal experts said on Wednesday that the telecommunications authority had the right to appeal the Ankara court’s ruling, but that it should comply and end its attempts to block Twitter. But a statement from the Justice Ministry hinted at a delay, saying that the authority had 30 days to comply and that a regional administrative court would have the final say in the case.

Yet another court, the country’s Constitutional Court, was expected to rule on a separate complaint about the Twitter ban, filed by two academic experts on cyberlaw who asserted that the blocking of Twitter infringed on a constitutional right to information.

“We welcome the ruling of the Ankara court, but remain concerned,” Yaman Akdeniz of Bilgi University in Istanbul told the NYT. He said he another expert, Kerem Altiparmak of Ankara University, expected the Constitutional Court to agree with the Ankara court. And they filed a similar complaint on Wednesday at the European Court of Human Rights.

Erdogan has continued to assail Twitter, saying the ban will remain in place unless the service complies with local Turkish court rulings to remove some content. He also criticized YouTube, which has similarly been used to publicize leaked telephone conversations and videos.

“What is this thing called Twitter, anyway?” Erdogan said late Tuesday on NTV, a privately owned Turkish news channel. “It is a company, involved in communication, social media, et cetera. Now, you look at it and actually see YouTube behind this. They do not have a representative here, but work with the lawyers of YouTube.”

He was, said the NYT, apparently referring to the fact that Twitter had hired the same law firm that YouTube used during a separate dispute with the Turkish authorities in 2008.

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