Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan — a man who, not too long ago, deemed social media sites “the worst menace to society,” probably because demonstrators were using them to organize and rally against his rule — banned Twitter and then YouTube from the country’s interwebz last March after some rather incriminating audio recordings revealing corruption inside his government were circulated on the sites. Although a lot of tech-savvy Turks found ways to get around bans, the principle of the matter had a lot of opposition crying foul about Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism, and in April, Turkey’s top Constitutional Court invalidated the ban against Twitter as a violation of freedom of expression.
This week, the court ruled that the same goes for YouTube, via the WSJ:
Turkey’s top court on Thursday ruled that a ban on YouTube is unconstitutional, paving the way to lift the two-month blockade, after the government cut off access to Google Inc.’s video-sharing website for publishing leaked state secrets just days before critical March elections.
The Constitutional Court in Ankara sided 14-to-2 with individual appeals filed by Google’s local attorney, opposition lawmakers and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, ruling that YouTube’s blockade breached freedom of expression, according to a brief decision published on its website. …
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government so far has refused to implement lower court decisions against the website’s blockade. Access to YouTube was still barred late on Thursday.
The YouTube decision is poised to thrust the Constitutional Court back into the center of Turkey’s increasingly polarized politics, right before August presidential elections. Mr. Erdogan, who is expected to run for and win the presidency, slammed the judges for removing a similar ban on Twitter Inc. in early April, saying his government will abide by the decision but doesn’t respect it.
How nice. Despite the number of complaints about his increasingly autocratic attitude, Erdogan still has a solid grip on power in Turkey — and if he does move over from prime minister to president this August, the power to appoint judges to the Constitutional Court will be his. I.e., the further lockdown on a free and open Internet in Turkey might not be so very far away after all.