Turkey ends 991-day Wikipedia ban

Turkey ends 991-day Wikipedia ban

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has lifted a 991-day ban on Wikipedia.

In December, a 10-to-six majority on the court ruled in favour of the community-generated encyclopaedia forum, saying that the ban violated freedom of expression.

Wikipedia was blocked in April 2017 after the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site, refused to remove contributions saying Turkey was supporting terrorist organisations, calling the website a “smear campaign”. 

Contributions said Turkey’s government cooperated with the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria.

The offending Wikipedia page remains online noted many countries’ accusations that Turkey was backing groups in Syria like Al Nursa front, an al-Qaeda Syrian affiliate. 

Former US vice president Joe Biden in 2014 accused Turkey of being one of the countries to “pour hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tonnes of weapons into anyone who would fight against [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Assad”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law has been accused of enabling and profiting from Isis oil sales. And during early Kurdish battles with Isis, the Islamist extremists were able to attack Kurdish forces from Turkish territory. An ex-US envoy, Brett McGurk, last year accused Ankara of providing weapons and logistical support to Isis. Turkey denied the allegations.

The community-edited encyclopaedia took legal action against the Turkish ban, taking the case to Turkey’s highest court in May 2017. 

“Instead of coordinating against terrorism, it has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena,” the Turkish Communications Ministry said of Wikipedia in 2017.

Turkish law allows the government to block websites that are deemed to pose a threat to national security, public order or public well-being.

“#Wikipedia” became the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Turkey after the ban was lifted and the newspaper Hurriyet declared that “Wikipedia is finally free”. 

“We are thrilled that the people of Turkey will once again be able to participate in the largest global conversation about the culture and history of Turkey online and continue to make Wikipedia a vibrant source of information about Turkey and the world,” said a Wikipedia blog.

Tens of thousands of websites are still blocked and YouTube was offline for two years because of videos insulting Mustafa Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.

Some observers asked why the decision had taken so long. 

“The Constitutional Court should not have waited 2½ years. This has been a very serious loss for Turkey,” said Turkish academic Yaman Akdeniz, who was one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he “hoped this was a great victory for returning to a process of normalisation for freedom of speech”.

 

 

Turkey is extremely sensitive about the Kurds. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

 

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