Turkey bans Wordpress blogs over alleged libel
Turkish internet users have been blocked from accessing sites on the Wordpress.com hosting service. A court in Istanbul ordered the website be blocked after lawyers complained that a number of blogs hosted by Wordpress were libellous of Islamic creationist author Adnan Oktar.
Turkish internet users attempting to access more than a million Wordpress sites are now redirected to a site that says in Turkish and English: "Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of TC Fatih 2 Civil Court of First Instance."
Kerim Kalkan, a lawyer for Oktar, said that the court first ordered Turk Telecom to block a couple of specific websites, but the authors of the sites soon moved the allegedly libellous content to other Wordpress sites. "It was when this happened that we applied to the court to order that all websites of Wordpress be blocked," Kalkan said.
Kalkan said the court first ordered that Wordpress be blocked on August 13 and that Turk Telecom implemented the order on August 17. "We have also sent messages to other blog hosting sites and if the libellous content moves to them, we will again apply to the courts to have those blocked also," he said.
The Wordpress website has posted a number of emails and letters from Oktar's lawyers, asking for the various sites to be taken down. "We have applied to you to remove the unlawful statements regarding my client Mr Adnan Oktar ... The number of our attempts to inform and warn you regarding these defamation blogs must have been at least 20, many times through your support page, a couple of times to your legal department and we even sent a regular mail to Mr Matt Mullenweg. Most of our attempts were unanswered," read an email received by Wordpress.
The blocking of sites hosted by Wordpress is similar to the blocking of the popular video-sharing site YouTube after a number of videos were deemed by an Istanbul court to be insulting to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish republic. The ban was lifted a few days later after the videos were removed.
News of the latest ban has upset many Turkish bloggers and advocates of freedom of speech. On a Wordpress blog entry titled "Why we're blocked in Turkey: Adnan Oktar", which is itself blocked in Turkey, Wordpress users have expressed their anger. "Because of this problem I have [had] to move my blog," wrote one Turkish blogger.
In response to a question on whether Wordpress should stop hosting the sites that allegedly libel Oktar, a blogger by the pen name of "savedbymcr" wrote: "My opinion is that if you give in to this it will only be the beginning. Everyone will start filing lawsuits and having blogs removed and sites shut down. Blogs are/were intended to be a place to speak your mind, not speak about what a government deems appropriate."
The sites that Oktar's lawyers wanted removed were written by Edip Yuksel and his supporters. Yuksel is described as an Islamic reformist who is based in the United States and who has frequently criticised Oktar.
Oktar himself is an Islamist who under the name Harun Yahya has written and distributed many books supporting creationist theories. His latest book, The Atlas of Creation, has been distributed unsolicited to schools across Turkey, the US and Europe.
Posted by: Fred 2007-08-21