updated 9/20/2007 11:46:53 AM ET 2007-09-20T15:46:53

A Turkish court has ordered the country's telecommunications company to block access to the popular video-sharing site YouTube because of clips the court deems insulting to leading political figures.

It was the second time Turkey has blocked access to YouTube. In March, the site owned by Google Inc. was blocked for two days after a complaint that some clips insulted Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The ban was lifted after the offending clips were removed.

On Wednesday, a court in the eastern city of Sivas ordered the block, saying video on the site insulted Ataturk, President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the army.

The decision drew criticism Thursday from journalist watchdog group.

"Blocking an entire Web site because of a few videos is a disproportionate measure," the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the authorities to reverse this decision."

The site could be accessed on Thursday, and it was not clear when the ban would come into effect.

But the bans highlight Turkey's shaky record on permitting free expression.

It is illegal in Turkey to insult Ataturk, a revered figure whose portrait hangs in nearly all government offices.

Several prominent Turkish journalists and writers — including Nobel literature prize winner Orhan Pamuk — have been tried for allegedly insulting "Turkishness."

Turkey is hardly alone in blocking YouTube.

Earlier this year, the Thai government banned the site for about four months because of clips seen as offensive to Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In May, Moroccans were unable to access YouTube after users posted videos critical of Morocco's treatment of the people of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco took control of in 1975. An official blamed a technical glitch, but could not explain its nature or why it affected only the YouTube site.

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