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Proposal May Ban Some Turkish Web Sites

A parliamentary commission approved a proposal Thursday allowing Turkey to block Web sites that are deemed insulting to the founder of modern Turkey, weeks after a Turkish court temporarily barred access to YouTube.

Parliament plans to vote on the proposal, though a date was not announced. The proposal indicates the discomfort that many Turks feel about Western-style freedom of expression, even though Turkey has been implementing widespread reforms in its bid to join the European Union.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the commission also debated whether the proposal should be widened to allow the Turkish Telecommunications Board to block access to any sites that question the principles of the Turkish secular system or the unity of the Turkish state -- a reference to Web sites with information on Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

It is illegal in Turkey to talk of breaking up the state or to insult Ataturk, the revered founder of modern Turkey whose image graces every denomination of currency and whose portrait hangs in nearly all government offices.

Ataturk is held to be responsible for creating a secular republic from the crumbling, Islamic Ottoman Empire.

Several prominent Turkish journalists and writers, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, have been tried for allegedly insulting Ataturk or for the crime of insulting "Turkishness."

European calls for free speech have angered some nationalist Turks, who view the recommendations as interference in their internal affairs.

Last month, Turkey blocked access to the popular video-sharing site YouTube after a complaint that some videos insulted Ataturk. The ban was lifted two days later.

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