Turkey lifts nearly three-year ban on Wikipedia

Turkey lifts nearly three-year ban on Wikipedia
Ankara blocked the community-generated encyclopedia in 2017 after entries alleged the government supported IS.
2 min read
16 January, 2020
Thousands of websites and domains are blocked in Turkey [Getty]
Turkey on Wednesday lifted its almost three-year ban on accessing Wikipedia, weeks after the country's highest court ruled the block violated freedom of expression. 

Ankara blocked Wikipedia in April 2017, claiming the online encyclopedia was part of a "smear campaign" against the country after it refused to remove content that allegedly portrayed Turkey as supporting the Islamic State group and other terrorist organisations.

The Constitutional Court officially ruled in favour of Wikipedia late last year, but access did not resume until Wednesday, hours after Turkey's Official Gazette published details of the court ruling.

Turkey banned more than 200,000 websites and domains between just 2014 and 2018, according to a 2018 report on freedom of expression.

It is also ranked among the countries with the highest number of requests to remove content from Twitter and Facebook.

Access to Wikipedia was blocked under a law that allows the government to ban websites that it deems to pose a national security threat.

Wikipedia petitioned the Constitutional Court in May 2017 after talks with Turkish officials and a challenge in lower courts failed.

The community-generated site had refused to remove content, citing its opposition to censorship. The ban had targeted all language editions of the site over entries alleged Turkish officials were involved in oil trading with IS and that Ankara was a sponsor of the extremist group.

Despite the block on Wikipedia and thousands of other sites, residents of the country have found ways to circumvent bans by using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

Access to the user-generated encyclopedia was slow to resume on Wednesday, according to social media users, with internet providers resuming access at differing times.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia and other sites, hailed the decision as a victory for freedom of expression.

"We are thrilled to be reunited with the people of Turkey," Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement. "At Wikimedia we are committed to protecting everyone's fundamental right to access information."

Turkey is considered among the world's worst violators of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Ankara as the largest jailer of journalists until just last year. With 47 reporters currently imprisoned, it is now considered the world's second worst offender.

Agencies contributed to this report

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