Turkey lifts its ban on YouTube: agency

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey has lifted its ban on video-sharing website YouTube as material deemed insulting to Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has been removed, Turkish state-run news agency Anatolian reported Saturday.

Ankara’s general attorney ruled the site, blocked since May 2008, should be now freely accessible to Turkish users.

The ban was widely criticized, even by Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul who used his Twitter page to condemn the move, and said he had asked responsible institutions for a solution.

Under the country’s penal code it is an offence to insult the Turkish nation and its institutions.

YouTube said in a statement on Saturday: “We’ve received reports that some users in Turkey are once again able to access YouTube...We want to be clear that a third party, not YouTube, have apparently removed some of the videos that have caused the blocking of YouTube in Turkey using our automated copyright complaint process.”

“We are investigating whether this action is valid in accordance with our copyright policy,” YouTube added.

Human rights groups and media watchdog associations have long urged European Union membership candidate Turkey to reform its restrictive Internet laws.

In June the human rights and security group Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Turkey’s internet law, first introduced to restrict access to pornography and other content harmful to children, had been expanded to prevent access to over 5,000 sites.

Reporting by Alexandra Hudson