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17th May 2021

Turkish court overturns Erdogan's ban on Wikipedia

  • Turkey blocked Wikipedia in April 2017 after the government claimed that the site was part of a 'smear campaign' against the country (Photo: The Preiser Project)

Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday (26 December) that the Turkish government's block on Wikipedia is a violation of freedom of expression, in a legal victory against the two-year-old ban.

The ruling was passed by a 10-to-six majority in the Turkish high court and the authorities are expected to lift the restrictions accordingly.

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Turkey blocked Wikipedia in April 2017 after the government claimed that the site was part of a "smear campaign" against the country when it refused to delete content that suggested that Turkey had co-operated with jihadist militants in Syria.

The decision of the Turkish high court was welcomed by Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, who tweeted "Welcome back, Turkey!" After the ruling was made public.

"We join the people of Turkey, and the millions of readers and volunteers who rely on Wikipedia around the world, to welcome this important recognition for universal access to knowledge," the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that manages and hosts Wikipedia, also said in a statement.

'Welcome back'

Earlier this year, the Wikimedia Foundation also asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, a pan-European human rights tribunal, to lift the block on Wikipedia in Turkey, arguing that it was a violation of fundamental freedoms.

The ECHR decided to expedite and give priority to the case, calling the ban "unacceptable in a democratic society and not compatible with article 10 of the European convention on human rights, which protects freedom of expression".

The tribunal's ruling is still pending, but "thae ECHR's decision to fast-track our case is a recognition of the threat of government censorship to our most fundamental rights," Katherine Maher, the CEO of the foundation, said at the time.

Wikipedia has become one of the most widely-accessed websites in the world and an essential source of knowledge online.

Meanwhile media freedom in Turkey has been deteriorating under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), "censorship of websites and online social media has reached unprecedented levels [in Turkey]".

Turkey is ranked 157 out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

Wikipedia has also faced censorship in other countries, such as China and Russia.

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