ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
The applicant Ahmet Yıldırım complained that a court decision to block access to Google Sites prevented access to his own personal website. DAILY NEWS photo
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) yesterday found Turkey guilty of violating the right of freedom of speech in its practice of blocking access to certain websites on the Internet.
In a case filed by Turkish citizen Ahmet Yıldırım, who complained that a court decision to block access to Google Sites prevented access to his own personal website, the ECHR unanimously held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 7,500 euros in respect of nonpecuniary damages and 1,000 euros for costs and expenses.
Yıldırım owned a website hosted by the Google Sites service, on which he published his academic work and his opinions on various matters.
On June 23, 2009, a Denizli court ordered the blocking of an Internet site whose owner had been accused of insulting the memory of Atatürk. The order was issued as a preventive measure in the context of criminal proceedings against the site’s owner.
The blocking order was submitted for execution to the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB). Shortly afterward, the TİB asked the court to extend the scope of the order by blocking access to Google Sites, which hosted not only the site in question but also the applicant’s site. The TİB stated that this was the only technical means of blocking the offending site, as its owner lived abroad.
The TİB blocked all access to Google Sites and Yıldırım was thus unable to access his own site. All his subsequent attempts to remedy the situation were unsuccessful because of the blocking order issued by the court.
In its ruling, the ECHR said although neither Google Sites nor Yıldırım’s own site were concerned by the abovementioned proceedings, the TİB made it technically impossible to access any of those sites, in order to implement the measure ordered by the Denizli court.
The ECHR said it “was not a blanket ban but rather a restriction on Internet access.”
Law no. 5651 on Internet regulations “failed to meet the foreseeability requirement under the Convention and had not afforded the applicant the degree of protection to which he was entitled by the rule of law in a democratic society,” the ECHR said, adding that “the effects of the measure in question had therefore been arbitrary and the judicial review of the blocking of access had been insufficient to prevent abuses.”