ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities pressed Thursday to block access to YouTube following similar action against Twitter, a move sure to provoke further outrage in a country where social media is widely used.
Turkey's technology minister, Fikri Isik, said the national telecommunications authority was imposing the block "as a precaution" after an audio recording of a government security meeting was leaked on the video-sharing website.
Despite the government's actions, YouTube was still widely accessible following the announcement.
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. That ban came shortly after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip 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.
The ban against YouTube comes after an alleged audio recording of a meeting between the Turkey's foreign minister, intelligence chief and top military and Foreign Ministry officials was leaked on YouTube. The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in neighboring Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey, although the context of the conversation is not clear.
A Foreign Ministry statement said the meeting was held to discuss threats of a possible attack on a mausoleum in Syria — of the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire's founder — which is considered Turkish territory and protected by Turkish troops.
A government official said access to YouTube was closed down out of "national security concerns and because of the urgency of the situation." The official said the move aimed to prevent the "posting of other recordings that may threaten national security." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without authorization.
Erdogan railed against the audio leak.
"This is immoral, this is sleaze, this is shameful, this is dishonorable," he said during a campaign rally.
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