Turkey blocks YouTube over leaked audio recording

Prime Minister Erdogan confirmed the blocking of YouTube and said the audio leak was ‘shameful’

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Turkish authorities blocked access to YouTube on Thursday, hours after a voice recording of alleged Turkish officials discussing a Syria operation was leaked on the video-sharing website.

The audio file is purportedly of a meeting between the foreign minister, intelligence chief and top military and foreign ministry officials discussing a military intervention in Syria.

“After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the law, administrative measure has been taken for this website,” said a statement on the telecommunications authority webpage.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the block and said the leak was “villainous.”

“This is immoral, this is sleaze, this is shameful, this is dishonorable,” Erdogan said during a campaign rally.

Technology Minister Fikri Isik said the national telecommunications authority was imposing the block “as a precaution,” according to the Associated Press.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the leak an act of espionage and an “open declaration of war against the Turkish republic.”

In a statement, his office called eavesdropping on a top-secret meeting an attack on Turkey’s security and said those responsible would be severely punished.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that a chief prosecutor had launched an investigation into possible espionage over the YouTube leak and the country’s media watchdog imposed a news blackout on the details of the recording.

Key allies, including the U.S. and the European Union, had criticized Turkey’s earlier move against Twitter as a restriction of free speech and a step backward for Turkish democracy, according to AP.

That ban came shortly after Erdogan threatened to “rip out the roots” of Twitter, which has been a conduit for links to recordings suggesting government corruption.

Turkey holds crucial local elections Sunday that are widely regarded as a referendum on Erdogan’s rule.

Google Inc. owns YouTube and Google spokeswoman Abbi Tatton said some users in Turkey weren’t able to access YouTube.

“There is no technical issue on our side and we’re looking into the situation,” she said.

The U.S.-based firm Renesys confirmed a partial blocking of YouTube while the number of tweets mentioning Turkey and YouTube had multiplied several times on Twitter, according to the social media monitoring firm Brandwatch.

In a tweet, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes called the block against YouTube “another desperate and depressing move in Turkey.”

“I express my support for all those supporters of real freedom and democracy,” she said. “We in Europe stand for an open Internet and free expression on it.”

The government’s attempted crackdown on Twitter came after links to other wiretapped recordings suggesting corruption were spread on the microblogging site, causing Erdogan’s government major embarrassment before Sunday’s election.

Erdogan has blamed a movement led by U.S.-based moderate Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former political ally of Erdogan, for the leaks.

Also on Thursday, a television station linked to Gulen said Turkish authorities had withdrawn its license to broadcast nationally.

(With Reuters and AP)