The European Court of Human Rights
("ECHR") ruled that Turkey's ban on
YouTube between 2008 and 2010 violated the right to receive and
impart information and ideas, granted by Article 10 (freedom of
expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights
("EuropeanConvention"). The EHCR also noted the block
could be considered a violation of people's right to
The Ankara Criminal Court of First Instance ordered that YouTube
be blocked in Turkey from May 2008. The ban was ordered on the
grounds that the website contained ten videos which insulted the
memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish
Three academic applied to have the Criminal Court's decision
set aside. However, the higher court upheld the decision on the
grounds that the ban is legitimate and the applicants lacked
capacity to sue, because they were not personally affected by the
ban. The ban was ultimately lifted in October 2010, following a
request from the company which owned the copyright to the videos in
YouTube was blocked again in Turkey on 17 June 2010. The block
was challenged but the court dismissed the case and this dismissal
was upheld by a higher court. The applicants challenged the
dismissal decisions before the ECHR, asking for the measure to be
The ECHR considered whether the applicants qualified as victims
(as required by the European Convention). It noted the applicants
had actively used YouTube for professional purposes, particularly
downloading or accessing videos within their academic work. The
ECHR noted that the YouTube platform enables broadcasting of
information regarding specific interests, particularly about
political and social matters. Therefore, it held that YouTube is an
important source of communication and the blocking order precluded
access to specific information which is unavailable via other
means. Accordingly, the ECHR held that YouTube supports and enables
citizen journalism, which could impart political information not
conveyed by traditional media. The ECHR accepted that YouTube plays
a significant role in the applicants' right to receive and
impart information or ideas. Therefore, the applicants could
legitimately claim to have been affected by the blocking order,
even though they had not been directly targeted by it.
The ECHR notes there was no provision in Turkish law which
allowed domestic courts to impose a blanket blocking order on
Accordingly, the ECHR ruled that Turkey's ban on YouTube
violated the right to receive and impart information and ideas,
granted by Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European
The full text of the ECHR's decision can be found at this link (available only in French) and an
ECHR press release can be downloaded at this link (only available in English).
Information first published in the MA | Gazette, a fortnightly legal update
newsletter produced by Moroğlu Arseven.
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