My Democracy, YouTube Democracy, and Turkish Democracy, Rode Out On A Rail

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—Hurriyet Daily News reported on Jan. 5 that Turkey’s Transportation Minister signaled a legal amendment regarding the ban on YouTube, saying that Turkey’s courts lack the experience to handle informatics crimes.

Binali Yildirim said the ban on the video-sharing website was a judicial ruling, not a decision of their government. “We are not experienced enough about the crimes regarding informatics. This is an issue that we can overcome by increasing our experience in the judiciary about how to handle such crimes,” he told a press conference.

Two courts have ordered bans on YouTube in Turkey in response to videos that it deemed insulting to Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Under Turkish law, it is a crime to insult Ataturk.

“The Internet Board is currently working on this issue. We will send this to the courts via the Justice Ministry. Therefore we will remove the misperceptions in the practice. We never aimed to block access to information, but we cannot sit by as onlookers on activities that insult our national values openly,” he said.

In my view there is little that can or needs to be said further about the endangerment of civil rights in Turkey when the legitimacy of YouTube, prodigal-son cornerstone of true soap box democracy in our world today, is even slated to be a question on anyone’s legislative chopping block.

With both pride and prejudice, I have to call YouTube my generation’s incarnation of democracy. At least until the rest of us under-40s can carve out something better.

Turkey is not alone in its lament to the heavens against what it decries as defamatory media viewpoints against its caricatured “Fearless Leader” Ataturk—there’s a good reason that Russian anti-Putinist bloggers are the most zealous and imprisoned in the world for their beliefs and YouTube posts.

Which is why it shames me to no end when Americans take derogatory advantage of a forum like YouTube—where in Mubarak’s Egypt or in China people risk prison for their mouse clicks—demonstrating the new institutional radicalism existent in the U.S. military since the Iraq war [see The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report expose “A Few Bad Men”, July 7, 2006, or read Weinstein’s With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military for more information on the subject domestically.]

As for Turkey, if Transportation Minister Yildirim signals the YouTube ban to go federal on the national level, the hard-line nationalist and free-thinking Turks alike are all aboard on the wrong track; and there won’t be any light at the end of that tunnel for the whistle of 2009.

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Andy Turpin

Andy Turpin has been the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly since 2006. He was raised in Palma City, Fla. His family is of Italian, Welsh and Armenized-Romani stock. He graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., with degrees in history and journalism. Following graduation, he went to Armenia as an English as a Second Language (ESL) U.S. Peace Corp volunteer. He received his CELTA-ESL degree from Cambridge University in 2006.

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