Reports (here, here) indicate that WordPress.com, in its entirety, has been blocked in Turkey. People trying to visit the website get the following message: "Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance." The founding developer of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, began writing about the situation last week on his personal blog, and he received a letter on Saturday night from a Turkish attorney representing Mr. Adnan Oktar, who apparently is a Turkish national and the author of books written under the pen name Harun Yahya. Mr. Oktar's attorney claims that another Turkish national, Edip Yuksel, started a number of WordPress blogs dedicated to defaming his client. The attorney says that he sent a number of letters complaining about the alleged defamatory statements to the WordPress legal department and apparently to Matt personally. According to the letter, he then brought the matter before a Turkish court, which granted Mr. Oktar's request to block access to WordPress.com in Turkey. The letter demands that WordPress "remove and prohibit any blogs in [its] site that contain my client's name Adnan Oktar or his pen name Harun Yahya or various combinations of these 4 names."
WordPress has not taken any action yet. Matt has posted the entire letter on the website and asked the community for advice on how to proceed. The letter and the comments from WordPress users are fascinating. Apparently, Mr. Oktar is an Islamic creationist whose group is mounting a anti-evolution campaign in Turkey and abroad. Mr. Yuksel is a self-described "Islamic Reformer" who is critical of Mr. Oktar and his movement. One of the blog posts complained about in the attorney's letter is in English -- it is worth a look if you want to better understand the kinds of statements at issue.
It's tough to say what, if anything, WordPress can do with respect to Turkish law. It would be a good idea to contact a Turkish media lawyer.
This is not the first time that a Turkish court has ordered access to an entire website blocked. According to the Open Net Initiative:
On March 7, 2007, the video-sharing Web site Youtube was blocked in Turkey as per a court order, following the posting of certain videos on the site that were found to be derogatory toward Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish people in general, and the Turkish flag. The blocking invoked Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, known as the main obstacle to freedom of speech, which defines insults toward Ataturk as well as "Turkishness" as a crime. Turkey’s leading ISP, Turk Telecom, complied with the order but petitioned to the court to allow access to the site to be restored. The court agreed on the condition that the particular videos were removed. The two-day blocking was heavily criticized both within Turkey and abroad and likened to "closing a library because of a single book that was found to be improper."
It's a shame to see that a Turkish court has granted another overbroad injunction, especially since the order appears to have been granted ex parte. Perhaps Turk Telecom will come to the rescue again, but for now WordPress bloggers and their audience in Turkey will have to endure this worrisome curtailment of speech.