Turkey has blocked two of its largest LGBT websites. Users of sites such as hadigayri.com and gabile.com are finding that instead of regular homepages, they are seeing messages stating that the site has been blocked by the Telecommunication Directorate.

The newly-created body is permitted to shut down websites without a court order if it believes they violate the law.

The administrators of the two websites say they do not contain any pornographic or criminal content. They had been accused of allowing prostitution.

Turkey banned YouTube one year ago and even briefly banned the Facebook game Farmville, on the grounds that it contained gambling.

Legislation passed in 2007 allows it to block access to pornographic and obscene web content.

Hadigayri.com and gabile.com were blocked on October 2nd. It is estimated that they have 225,000 users between them.

Ismael Alacaoglu, project coordinator at KAOS-GL, an Ankara-based gay group, told The Nation: “These sites are mainly used by people to meet each other and they give news about LGBT issues in Turkey.

“We are concerned about them being blocked. It’s a kind of violence against freedom of expression. There are very few places in Turkey where gay people can gather and meet each other, and these two websites are among them.”

An official from the Telecommunication Directorate said: “If the subject that is expressed constitutes a crime, measures are taken particularly to protect young people, minors and families against such negative content.”

He added: “The method applied in Turkey is also recommended and shown as an example by the EU to its member states; we can proudly say that we have a pioneering position in this field.”

The country is currently attempting to become a member of the European Union.

Although it is not illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans in Turkey, discrimination practices and persecutions of LGBT people are commonplace. Hate crimes have risen dramatically, both in the form of attacks and murder and campaigners say the police and government have shown little responsive action.