May 9, 2017 10:31 am
Updated: May 9, 2017 11:46 am

Wikipedia appeals to Turkish constitutional court to have ban lifted

A file photo dated 05 August 2005 showing logos of the internet cyclopaedia 'Wikipedia' in several languages at the 'First International Wikimedia Conference' in Frankfurt, Germany.


Wikipedia says it won’t give up its fight to get Turkey to lift a ban on access to its website.

The online encyclopedia has appealed to Turkey’s constitutional court against a government decision to block access to the site, a case that has heightened concerns about censorship in Turkey. Turkey initially blocked access to Wikipedia for its citizens on April 29, and cited a law that allowed it to ban websites that are deemed “obscene or a threat to national security.”

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“After technical analysis and legal consideration … an administrative measure has been taken for [Wikipedia.Org],” the country’s telecommunications watchdog (BTK) said in a statement on its website.

One day later, Turkey purged 3,900 public officials and banned television matchmaking shows. These officials were fired from several ministries and judicial bodies, reports the New York Times. According to government officials, the television ban only applied to satellite channels that “do advertising for sexual products.”

While it wasn’t immediately clear why Wikipedia was included in this string of actions, Turkey’s communications ministry claimed that Wikipedia was attempting to run a “smear campaign” against the country, claiming that articles posted to the site suggested that Ankara was co-ordinating with militant groups. On April 30, Wikipedia published a response to the ban, urging the Turkish government to reconsider.

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” If it remains, this block will result in millions of people in Turkey losing access to free knowledge about their country and the world around them. We believe knowledge is a fundamental human right and urge the Turkish government to remove this block,” read a blog post that was published by the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher.

When attempting to access the webpage using Turkish internet providers, users received a notice that the site could not be reached and saw a “connection timed out” error appear on the screen. Turkey has been accused in the past of blocking access to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in the aftermath of militant attacks.

Since the failed coup that took place last year, Turkish authorities have suspended more than 120,000 people from the civil service, police and judiciary and arrested 40,000 more on suspicion of ties to terrorist groups.

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President Tayyip Erdogan says that these measures are necessary due to the massive security threat Turkey currently faces. In addition, Turkey jailed a record 81 journalists last year, making it the world’s top jailer of reporters, according to the Committee to Protest Journalists.

According to the local news agency, Anadolu, the ban would only be lifted if Wikipedia met the government’s demands, which involved removing two pages that claimed Turkey provided support to jihadis in Syria. The Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, refused to do so and filed an appeal later that week.

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On May 5, that appeal was rejected by a Turkish court. Andalou quoted the court as saying that while freedom of speech is a fundamental right, it can be limited when there is a “necessity for regulation.”

Wikipedia has posted a page entitled “2017 block of Wikipedia in Turkey,” that details the events leading up to the ban.

—With files from Reuters. 

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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