ANKARA: Turkey banned YouTube on Thursday (Friday in Manila) after the video-sharing website was used to spread damaging leaked audio files from a state security meeting debating possible military action in Syria.
The recording purports to be of senior Turkish government, military and spy officials discussing plans to stage an armed clash in Syria or a missile attack that would serve as a pretext for a military response.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—already ensnared in a corruption scandal and hit by recent mass protests ahead of crucial local elections on Sunday—angrily lashed out at his political opponents for leaking the recording.
“They have leaked something on YouTube today,” he told a campaign rally in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.
“It was a meeting on our national security. It is a vile, cowardly, immoral act. We will go into their caves. Who are you serving by eavesdropping?” he aded.
Erdogan did not mention his foe by name, but he has in the past used the “cave” reference for his former ally-turned-nemesis, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose movement has many followers in the Turkish police and judiciary.
The premier last week banned Twitter, sparking international condemnation, after the micro-blogging service was used to spread a spate of other audio files implicating Erdogan and his inner circle in corruption.
An Ankara court on Wednesday overturned that ruling as a limit on free speech. Turkey’s telecommunications regulator TIB has 30 days to appeal the decision, and Twitter has yet to be restored, although the ban has been widely circumvented.
Turkey’s European and American allies condemned the YouTube ban.
“This is another desperate and depressing move in Turkey,” tweeted European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes.
Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US had been “very strongly saying [to Turkish officials]that they need to stop doing this.”
Thursday’s YouTube leak is the first to focus on national security. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu labeled it “a declaration of war against the Turkish state and nation,” while his ministry said some sections had been distorted.
TIB said it was blocking YouTube on the grounds of a “primary threat against national security,” private NTV television reported.