Dutch Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake (ALDE/D66) welcomes yesterday’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in a case against Turkey on extensive internet blocking in the country. The European Court ruled that the full blocking of ‘Google Sites’ – instead of one single webpage hosted on that platform – was “arbitrary” and considered the judicial review of the blocking of access “insufficient” to prevent abuses. Schaake: “In this important ruling the Court confirms that the internet and unrestricted access thereto are essential for freedom of expression and that restrictions can only be justified in exceptional circumstances after sufficient judicial oversight.” On Google Sites internet users can build their own websites.
Insult is punishable
In June 2009 a Turkish criminal court ordered the blocking of a website of which the owner had been accused of insulting the legacy of the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Atatürk, which is a crime in Turkey (ex article 8, Law nr. 5651). The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB), which is the responsible administrative body for executing blocking orders, requested and subsequently received permission to block the full domain of Google Sites. According to TIB this was the only technical means of blocking the offending site. Schaake: “The European Court rebukes the Turkish criminal court by saying it has not sufficiently showed regard for the collateral effects of the blocking, including rendering large amounts of information inaccessible. This affects the rights of many internet users not suspected of any wrongdoing. The European Court states that the right to freedom of expression applies regardless of frontiers.”
Schaake stresses that unrestricted access to an open internet is an integral part of the Copenhagen criteria that the EU asks candidate countries to fulfil. Schaake: “Digital freedoms have become entrenched in the EU’s standards for protecting human rights and freedoms. These should also be respected and embraced by countries that aspire for EU membership. Sadly, also more traditional human rights are under threat in Turkey, with dozens of journalists behind bars.” Schaake supports a future Turkish EU Membership, but emphasizes that the country should first meet the accession criteria.
Both parties can request an appeal with the Grand Chamber of the European Courton Human Rights.
The Chamber judgment in the case of Ahmet Yildirim v.Turkey (application no. 3111/10).
Parliamentary questions by Ms Schaake to the European Commission on internet freedom inTurkey (answer in upper right corner).
Ms Schaake’s report “on a Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy” as adopted last week by the European Parliament (paras. 6 & 9 on the accession criteria).